David Quinn is the head coach of the Rangers, and right now, he can’t be happy with his team’s 9-0 win over the Flyers. That’s because he had nothing to do with it, and now everyone everywhere is questioning whether the team is better off without him.
1. I don’t think David Quinn should be the head coach of the Rangers, and if you frequent Keefe To The City, you will know that’s nothing new. I don’t think Quinn is the right guy for the job now, and I certainly don’t think he’s the right guy to lead this team into future when they are supposed to contend as quickly as next season. His lineup decisions, in-game strategies and ice-time decisions are too much to overcome. He has made too many head-scratching choices between last season and this season for me to change my mind about him.
2. I don’t think the 9-0 win over the Flyers on Wednesday was completely a result of Quinn not being on the bench, but I don’t think it was a complete coincidence either. I don’t think it was an accident that Mika Zibanejad scored a hat trick, a natural hat trick at that, after having three goals in the first 27 games of the season in which he has been benched and criticized publicly by Quinn. I don’t think it was by chance the Rangers happened to put together one of the most dominant offensive performances in franchise history in a game in which they didn’t have to worry about the lines being shuffled from minute to minute or have to fear a lack of ice time for a momentary lapse of judgment.
3. There was always going to be sarcastic comments about Quinn if the Rangers won by any score on Wednesday. Shutting out the Flyers and scoring nine goals in the process was the absolute worst-case scenario for any Quinn fans, Quinn himself and the Rangers’ front office, which is definitely still unsure if Quinn should be given a fourth season at the helm when the Rangers are expected to shed the “rebuilding” title from in front of the team name.
4. Six different Rangers scored in the rout of the Flyers. Brendan Lemieux for the second time this season, Artemi Panarin for the seventh, Pavel Buchnevich for the ninth and 10th (exactly two minutes apart), Jacob Trouba for the first, Zibanejad for the fourth, fifth and sixth and Filip Chytil for the fourth. Just a nonchalant five-point night for Zibanejad without the head coach who has benched him and who has publicly called him out. Freakin’ Brett Howden got on the scoresheet in the game. That’s how much of a team effort this one was.
5. If you’re Quinn, you have to be sick over Wednesday’s performance. Sure, his team played well, picked up two points and is that much closer to a postseason berth, but they also put together the best effort of the season and one of the best of all time without their head coach on the bench and without anyone from his coaching staff on the bench. That’s embarrassing at best for Quinn, and at worst, has to make the front office question everything. That’s how different the Rangers looked.
6. Now the Rangers head to Washington D.C. for games on back-to-back days against the division-leading Capitals, who the Rangers are somehow 2-0 against this season and have outscored 8-3 in those two games. The Capitals are tied for the league lead in points, and the Rangers have easily handled them in both games this season. It’s those types of efforts that make the Rangers’ .500 first half even more frustrating and harder to accept. They have shown they can play with and beat the best teams in the league, but they have also shown they are incapable of holding third-period leads, completely overcoming deficits and winning games in which they dominate possession and win in expected goals.
7. Even though the Rangers have picked up five of a possible six points in their last three games against the Bruins and Flyers, I still don’t think they will make the postseason. That pains me to say, but the math isn’t in their favor at the halfway point of the season. A .500 record wasn’t going to cut it for a half-season in a shortened, 56-game season, and that’s what the Rangers provided in the first 28 games, going 12-12-4. The 1.20 points per game threshold I have written about since before the season began wasn’t picked out of thin air. It was a historical measuring stick from seasons past with a little cushion built in. The Rangers averaged 1.00 point per game in the first half of the season and are three wins off pace. Three wins in three games they can’t get back on the schedule. There are four teams averaging at least 1.20 points per game in the East. They are the four teams currently holding the four playoff spots.
8. The Rangers could have easily won three more games. They have lost seven games in which they had a lead, including four in which they held a third-period lead. Against Pittsburgh alone, they have had leads in five of the six games between the two and have lost five of six. The difference between being holding a playoff spot right now and being the three points out of one that they are is their head-to-head series against the Penguins. The Rangers are currently six points out from the Bruins, who have a game in hand on the Rangers. They are nine points in back of the Penguins (those five blown leads loom large) and 14 points behind both the Islanders and Capitals. Let’s focus on the fourth spot, and the Bruins with 34 points because that’s the Rangers’ best path to a postseason berth.
9. The Bruins are averaging 1.26 points per game. If they play to that pace over their remaining 29 games, the will finish with 71 points. The Rangers would need to get 43 points in their remaining 28 games, a 1.54 points-per-game pace to reach 71 points. That’s a 21-6-1 or 20-5-3 or 19-4-5 record. That’s not happening. The Bruins have an odd number of games left (29), so let’s say they played one-game-over-.500 the rest of the way and finished with 64 points. The Rangers would have to play to a 1.29 points-per-game pace to earn 36 points in 28 games. That’s an 18-10-0 or 17-9-2 or 16-8-4 record. It’s much more reasonable, but unless the Bruins’ recent slide is going to continue, it’s not likely. On top of the Rangers playing exceptionally well for the next nearly two months, there’s still the issue of the Flyers sandwiched between them and the 4-seed.
10. It’s going to be hard, very, very hard for the Rangers to overcome their mediocre and mostly disappointing first half to reach the postseason. Not impossible, but unlikely. I’m not ready to give up on them yet, and I’m not ready for the season to completely turn into watching the development of the young core. I’m close, but I’m not there yet. A few more blown third-period leads, and I won’t have to give up on the Rangers. They will have done it for me.
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