Chris Kreider’s hat trick not enough as Rangers fall to Flyers

This is the kind of game you come away frustrated the Rangers couldn’t win. Despite getting outshot mainly because they took too many penalties and allowing the Flyers to set up shop against Shesterkin, the Rangers were the better team at creating chances 5 on 5. The team just couldn’t stay out of the box with some brutal delay of games and too-many-men calls. Yet despite the four goals against, Igor Shesterkin did look really good. Chris Kreider’s hat trick was nice to see as well.

The Rangers penalty kill had only given up a single power play goal in the last 9 games. It was only a matter of time that would regress and they would eventually allow some. Let’s dive a little deeper though into this game shall we?

To start, no Kakko (COVID protocol), no Miller (COVID protocol), no Chytil (injury), no Trouba (injury), and no Panarin (personal). So to say the Rangers were missing some good players is an understatement. But ultimately missing their best players puts into context that the game could have been way worse. Let’s hope guys like Kakko, Miller, and Chytil will be back soon. Panarin is rumored to only be out a few weeks, but time will tell on that. All we can hope and pray for is that he and his family remain safe in that situation.

Game Thoughts

The first period was a bit sloppy for the Flyers and Rangers alike at first. Yet because of the ensuing power plays from a too-many-men call and a slash, the Rangers allowed the Flyers to get some high danger shots. Shesterkin made some big saves, and again was good in this. The Rangers killed off the first penalty, but not the second. An Erik Gustafsson one-timer at the blue line that Shesterkin would definitely want back broke the streak. Shesterkin was unable to see it because Libor Hajek was battling low and screened Shesterkin until the puck was already past him. Not the kind of goal you want to give up immediately after a big kill.

The Rangers would get their own puck luck on a power play. Four seconds was all it took for Mika Zibanejad to rip a one-timer from the circle on net. Kreider slammed home the rebound much like he did against the Caps the previous game. This was the first of all three goals that came from the blue paint. Mika primary assisting two of them is great promise that his game is finally showing results. He’s looked great the last couple games.

The magic of Chris Kreider (hat trick) and Zibanejad (two assists) would unfortunately not come to full fruition as the Flyers were able to outpace the AHL caliber defense the Rangers dressed.

Alexis Lafreniere

This was also another game where Alexis Lafrenière wasn’t able to get above 15 minutes of ice time. With all of the players out of the lineup, this was one of the more puzzling things.

Colin Blackwell got more ice time and was promoted to the first power play unit, which is once again a head scratcher. This isn’t a slight against him. Blackwell has been a huge bright spot, but you have a first overall pick who could use some confidence. Let him play in the top six with an opening from Panarin being out.

That said, the Rangers did have 16 minutes of penalties. This plays into Laf’s ice time. Would it be the worst thing to even give Lafrenière a chance at killing penalties? He’s 19, but come on man, adding some skill to the PK like they did with Pavel Buchnevich this year isn’t a terrible decision.

The Howden and Hajek Experiment

We also need to have a discussion about Brett Howden and Libor Hajek. A quick mini rant, if you will. Both of these players have been unmitigated failures in this organization. With the play of guys like Morgan Barron and Tarmo Reunanen, both of whom deserve a call up, why are Howden and Hajek still here?

Howden has been a negative impact player his entire career here in New York, which is now in its third year. He has been given such a massive leash by Quinn despite not showing anything of value on the ice. He hasn’t scored a goal in 26 games (2/28 of last year against Philly). Anyone Quinn puts on a line with him nosedives as well. It’s time for the Howden experiment to end.

As for Hajek, he looked brutal having to play more ice time (15:59) than he would usually be given. Let’s look at it this way though, Hajek was on the taxi squad for 19 games as this organization didn’t deem him top-six worthy with the emergence of Miller. He was also the 9th defenseman on the depth chart.

The Ryan McDonagh trade continues to haunt the Rangers night in and night out the more these two get ice time. Pray Nils Lundkvist is the real deal and can come over next season to salvage the total package. Come get your expansion fodder Seattle!

End rant. But imagine this rant if Chris Kreider didn’t have a hat trick?

Let’s get the Bruins Friday!

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