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Rangers vs. Jets: Shootout Loss Puts Damper on Vic Hadfield Night

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The Rangers lost the game, but the evening featured a classy pregame ceremony to honor Vic Hadfield.

Winnipeg Jets v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  • The New York Rangers held a ceremony before the game on Sunday in honor of retiring #11 for Vic Hadfield. The number was originally retired on January 12, 2006 in honor of Mark Messier and everything he did for the franchise, with the highlight being the 1994 Stanley Cup victory.
  • The Rangers failed to win a championship from 1940 to 1994, and it was an era with a few could-have-been situations. One of the main ones that is remembered is the 1971-72 season which saw the team fall in the Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins in six games.
  • It was the team’s first appearance in a Cup Final since 1950, and that is a notable one since the league was comprised of just six teams until the 1967-68 expansion.
  • Vic Hadfield was the captain of the 1971-72 team, the leading goal-scorer with 50, and second overall in points with 106.
  • Jean Ratelle led the Blueshirts that year with 109 points-46 goals and 63 assists-and was awarded the Lester B. Pearson Trophy as most outstanding player by the NHLPA.
  • The third leading scorer on that team was Rod Gilbert who finished with 43 goals and 97 points.
  • The “GAG” line is certainly one of the most famous lines in Ranger history, and depending who you talk to, the first or second most famous. The other line in question is the Bread Line comprised of Frank Boucher, and Bill and Bun Cook.
  • The ceremony honoring Hadfield was special and featured numerous alumni of the organization including living members who previously had their number retired such as Gilbert, Ratelle, Eddie Giacomin, Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, and Mike Richter. Harry Howell was the only living member of the retired numbers club who was unable to attend.
  • As someone born in 1992, I never saw Hadfield play. My first understanding of who Hadfield was came during a day I went to work with my Dad. One of his co-workers, a die-hard Ranger fan, had a Hadfield placard highlighting some of his achievements as a player. As I grew older and learned more about the Rangers, I was able to develop an appreciation for who he was, and his significance as a member of the “GAG” line.
  • Both Ratelle and Gilbert spoke at the ceremony and it was touching to hear stories about the history each shared together. One anecdote included how Hadfield would always yell “speak English!” at his linemates because they often would converse in French. Gilbert joked that they would always say no because they were talking about Hadfield.
  • Ratelle told a story about how him and Hadfield’s families were close, and how they often would go to his house for dinner. Hadfield jokingly told Ratelle that his family ate so much he would need to find a lock for the fridge. The story became funnier when it was explained that in 1972 Ratelle and Gilbert represented Canada at the 1972 Summit Series. Games four through eight were played in Moscow, and in preparation of the journey, steaks were purchased to be cooked for meals.
  • The chef in Russia who prepared them thought they were too big, so they were cut in half and served in smaller portions. When the duo went to kitchen to complain, the chef was gone. Lo and behold, there was a lock on the fridge which is something that would have made Hadfield happy.
  • There were so many other nice things mentioned by Ratelle, Gilbert and Emile “the Cat” Francis, and if I listed them all we would be here all day.
  • Overall, the ceremony was really classy, and it was a nice touch to have both Ratelle and Gilbert’s retired number separated from the group so that when Hadfield’s was raised the “GAG” line would be reunited again for eternity.
Winnipeg Jets v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

  • There was also a hockey game played which saw the Rangers fell to the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 in the shootout on Sunday evening, a loss which saw the Blueshirt squander a 3-0 lead in the third period.
  • There’s not much worth rehashing from the game, but there is a soundbite from Henrik Lundqvist worth including.
  • Lundqvist was phenomenal for the Rangers as he made 39 saves on the evening. His body language and slight hesitation in answering the question, along with him going as so far to think about the word “momentum” really sums up his dejection and frustration.
  • He was 100 percent right in saying the Jets dominated the Rangers, and that was clear in the underlying numbers as well as the shot totals by period. It was clear that the Jets were carrying the play and the difference maker for most of the game was Lundqvist.
  • This loss was the Rangers’ third in a row, and on the drive home I was trying to think which in recent days was more frustrating. Was it the 3-0 shutout loss in Ottawa vs. the Senators? Was it Saturday’s loss vs. the Montreal Canadiens, a game that saw the team go down 4-0 at one point? Or was it Sunday’s loss in which a three goal lead evaporated? You can certainly make a strong argument for any of those games, but the theme that connects each is likely the element of failing to execute.
  • Right now the team is being felled by simple inability to execute. Brady Skjei was scratched vs. the Jets because of costly mistakes vs. the Canadiens. Sunday saw the Rangers show a lack of discipline, and a Mark Scheifele power play goal 2:10 into the third period got the Jets rolling. Jack Roslovic’s second of the season just over 2 minutes later made it a one-goal game, and from that point on the Rangers were on their heels.
  • Defensively the team needs to fix things, and it is something that has seemingly has been amiss since the departure of Ulf Samuelsson. Jeff Beukeboom succeeded Ulf for the 2016-17 season, and he was replaced after one season of duty. Lindy Ruff is in his second year with the Blueshirts. That is something that will require more of an analysis, but there is one thing that has become even more abundantly clear.
  • The pairing of Marc Staal and Neal Pionk can’t continue to be trotted out on a regular basis. The pairing was on the ice for the first and second Jet goal of the game this evening, and it was the 23rd and 24th goal against for the pair this year. Twelve of those goals have been surrendered 5v5, and 12 have come while killing a penalty according to Corsica. This is not to say that both players were directly responsible for the goals against, but the trend is certainly concerning.
  • Here’s a chart from Corsica looking at defense pairs by goals allowed in all situations.
http://corsica.hockey/line-stats/?season=20182019&player=&team=NYR&game_state=Any&options=Aggregate&session=Regular&venue=Any&report=Summary&min_toi=0&tab=
  • The one saving grace here is that pair has been on the ice for 13 goals for, including one on Sunday, and the differential is only -9. Like I said above, there needs to be more analysis done on the D as a whole, but something definitely needs to be addressed.
  • Mika Zibanejad picked up two primary assists in the loss and is up to 25 points in 28 games. That total is currently 22nd in the league among centers in points. As of this writing he ranks ahead of Joe Pavelski, Aleksander Barkov, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Johansen, rookie sensation Elias Petterson, and Jonathan Toews among others.
  • He is on pace to finish the season with 73 points, and even if you account for a stumble or two, that puts him in 60 to 65 point territory. Right now he is one of the motors that is generating the team offensively, and he’s doing it with a rotating cast of characters on the top line.
  • Kreider also picked up his 14th goal of the season in game 28. He scored 16 goals last year in 58 games total. The Rangers are going to have to think long and hard on how they wanted to proceed with him, and there are merits to keeping him and trading him. It is a little early to make a decision at this point, but this is something that could become more of a story if he is flirting with 30 goals before the trade deadline.
  • The Rangers are off until Saturday where they will take on the Florida Panthers in Sunrise.