In the biggest game of the season the New York Rangers played like it was a preseason game in September with a disheartening performance from the drop of the puck. Unfortunately, this is not an unusual occurrence for the David Quinn Rangers. Hell, this was the second time this week in a big time moment where the Rangers looked utterly disinterested. In the first instance, they just got lucky they were playing the Buffalo Sabres and they were able to eek out a victory on the back of Igor Shesterkin. Against the Islanders it was a much different story and Thursday nights loss just about seals a future of no postseason hockey at MSG this year.
While the future on Broadway is extremely bright with all the young talent the Blueshirts have amassed over the last few years not making the playoffs does sting. If you’ve listened to 30 On Broadway and Two 4 Roughing this year you know that I had always had the Rangers as the 5th seed in the East and not a playoff team unless things broke their way but it’s how they are missing the playoffs that irritates me. The idea behind that was that the club would be in the battles and just simply fall short due to the stack of the division but be right there along the way. With the way things have broken for the club from the gate and the costs of wins from the bench it’s taken a team that could’ve cracked the top 4 and put them in desperation mode to try and make it to the postseason.
Even with the injuries and Putin-Panarin scandal, the Rangers played well enough to give themselves a shot at making the postseason. Problem is, their chase was derailed from the inside by some extremely questionable, and I’m being generous, coaching decisions by David Quinn. Starting out the gate with not adjusting to Mika Zibanajed’s struggles while mindlessely juggling ever other line combination outside of the KZB line possible, Quinn’s utter refusal to give Kaapo Kakko time with the Panarin-Strome line or keeping Alexis Lafreniere on the third line and limited powerplay time for most of the season is just the tip. My personal favorite, his continued belief and blind trust in Brett Howden under just about all situations when you can argue that the Rangers looked better when Howden was out of the lineup. The penalty kill itself that Howden is touted for didn’t miss a beat during the stretch that he was down. Quinn’s insistence to play a lesser player because he “tries hard” instead of a guy like DiGiuseppe or Gauthier will baffle me till the cows come home. Even tonight in a game where the team was asleep at the wheel and needed a spark in offense, Howden was the primary promoted up in the lineup. I haven’t even touched on the Libor Hajek nonsense.
One of Quinn’s biggest blackeyes this year will be the game of hot potato he played with the goaltending in the start of the season. While I can understand that he didn’t want to burn out his goaltenders in a short season his decision to not run out his number one goalie early in the year also gave away points that are now biting the Rangers in the standings. The constant shifting between Igor Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev never allowed either goaltender to get into any sort of flow with the season. Also running Shesterkin early – who clearly is the number 1 – and letting him get into a rhythm would’ve allowed not only him to find his game early but also the rest of the team in front of him. During this most recent stretch where Quinn had no other choice but to ride Shesterkin he was rewarded with positive results from his number one netminder.
Just like with being forced to rely on Shesterkin, Quinn was finally forced to rely on the kids and we saw nothing but positive results from Lafreniere, Kravtsov, Kakko, and Chytil. The positive results from the kids also begs the question that what the hell took Quinn so long to start riding his young talent? These are the kinds of things that makes me wonder and it should make others wonder if Quinn should be the coach moving forward and if he can adapt and learn to being the coach when this team is ready to compete. From everything I’ve seen with Quinn I have a hard time believing that next year he will figure it all out and evolve his coaching style and help this group take the next step.
One of the biggest blemishes on Quinn’s record is that the team often comes out unprepared, unready to play and that has this been more evident this week in incredibly important moments. Another huge indictment is that we saw the Rangers often play down to their competition this season which also goes back to coaching and not being prepared. This to me is more glaring than Quinn’s on ice issues because when you’re a team fighting for a playoff spot how can you come out not ready to play? Especially with a young team where these kids should be chomping at the bit get their first taste of postseason hockey that they would be ready to go each and every night. That is not only an indictment on the coaching but also the so-called leaders of the team that casually take nights off as if they are coasting on vacation mode.
While there are so many things to be positive about with the Rangers organization this season will still be bittersweet. I just have to wonder if Quinn didn’t make the mistakes that he did and adjust accordingly earlier on in the season if the Rangers would be a top 4 team right now. Unfortunately it’s impossible to tell but hopefully Quinn will learn from his mistakes and help bring this team to the next level. There is not doubt in my mind that Quinn will be behind the bench to start the season next year, but the leash has to be shortening in length at this point.
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