It won’t be a popular topic with many Rangers fans, but Michael Del Zotto has quietly gone about playing some very good hockey since returning from his injury. This return to form is also coinciding with the Rangers recent strong run, which is no coincidence.
Del Zotto’s form has been overshadowed by Ryan McDonagh’s own return to form, Marc Staal’s injury, Rick Nash’s free scoring ways and the partial re-emergence of a powerplay that has begun to make a positive difference once again (finally?). Perhaps this is the best way for Del Zotto. He gets the opportunity to float under the radar, and have the attention focused elsewhere.
In not being blamed for every defensive error committed by the Rangers, and partially forgotten about on the offensive side of the puck, Del Zotto has had the opportunity to play himself back in to form in relative peace and quiet. While other players take the plaudits, Del Zotto has gotten better.
Del Zotto’s upturn in form couldn’t have come at a better time. With Marc Staal out for another 2-3 weeks, and Roman Hamrlik not yet trusted with significant minutes until he can get some kind of game shape, Del Zotto has been needed to solidify the top four and give coach Tortorella a second pair he can trust at any given minute or shift.
Del Zotto has points in back to back games for the first time since the end of January, but his decision making and physical play (as evidenced by his willingness to take on Chris Neil physically) have been better than at any time recently. His ice time has been significant, only dipping under 22:30 once in the past four games.
A key indicator may be that Del Zotto is shooting more, as we saw in the Capitals game yesterday. Even though he only registered one official shot on goal yesterday (he had several blocked), this represented the first time he hadn’t registered at least two shots on goal in the past five games (with six being registered to his name against the Senators last Friday).
Del Zotto clearly still needs to get better in his own end to develop into a consistent upper echelon defenseman. There is no questioning that with Marc Staal down, Del Zotto has stepped it up when the Rangers have needed him most. It’s time we gave the young blueliner some kudos rather than let the fan base rip him for every mistake made on the Rangers blueline.