Archive for Mats Zuccarello
In all reality the Rangers shouldn’t be leaning on Mats Zuccarello. After all, Zuccarello is somewhat middle of the pack when it comes to the big tickets assembled by the contending Rangers. A handful of forwards drop more salary. Zuccarello’s salary rank takes an even bigger hit when you factor in the blueline and a certain All-world goalie residing in the New York net.
The thing is, Zuccarello – also not yet at his best after his scary injury – has been the Rangers best and most consistent forward this season and there hasn’t been much competition. The Rangers just haven’t been good enough up front; whether it’s a lack of finishing (looking at you Mr Nash and Mr Kreider), struggling to establish a consistent forecheck or even helping out their own blueline who’ve faced countless odd man rushes in part because of the miscommunications with their forward brethren. The Rangers forwards aren’t where they need to be. Yet there is Zuccarello on course to smash his career high in goals in part thanks to his hattrick against the hapless Leafs while playing the best hockey amongst the Rangers vaunted top six.
Other than the infamous “Potvin Sucks” chant, there’s not much that’s more annoying at MSG than the cries for players to “SHOOT THE PUCK!” on the power play.
Sure, shooting the puck is usually a great idea – as Wayne Gretzky once said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – but blasting a slapper from the point into the shin pads of an opposing forward when you’re the last line of defense is generally inadvisable.
Chris usually gets to have all the fun with these musings posts, but my thoughts are all over the place with so many interesting developments in the first four games of the season. So here are some of my early impressions:
- It seems like entering each year now, there’s buzz about how the upcoming season will be the Rangers’ last real chance at the Cup and the window is rapidly closing. But that’s really a bunch of baloney. The end of this run could come, and it could come suddenly – but if it does, it will only because Henrik Lundqvist has finally fallen from his perch atop the mountain of NHL goalies. Four games into this season, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. Lundqvist has responded to coach Alain Vigneault’s challenge to start the year better with a sparkling stretch of unbelievable saves. Lundqvist’s reflexes look faster than ever, and if he’s actually able to continue this hot streak for the first few weeks and months when Lundqvist usually struggles, then you might as well hand him the Vezina Trophy now.
- One of my biggest problems with trading Carl Hagelin was that I thought his speed was essential to the team’s identity. Bu this year’s version of the Blueshirts plays as frenetic as ever. There’s still speed to burn up and down the lineup and it has to be a nightmare to defend.
The Rangers head to Chicago tonight for their season opener while having the ‘pleasure’ of the Blackhawks Stanley Cup banner raising ceremony. The Rangers and the ‘Hawks have both undergone significant roster change – perhaps highlighted by Antti Raanta who headed from Chicago to New York to replace Cam Talbot. With tonight’s game an immediate test of how ready the Rangers are for the new season, let’s take a look at three Rangers players who could play a critical role tonight.
Anytime the Rangers head to Chicago to play the ‘Hawks Kevin Hayes will be a focal point given how he was drafted by the Hawks then walked away from the team. Hayes will be one to watch tonight firstly to see how he acclimatises to his new top six right wing role, a position he rarely played last season. In two games last season Hayes went pointless against Chicago but he’ll be counted on from the get-go this season as the Rangers look for more secondary scoring.
The new Kreider – Stepan – Hayes line boasts a ton of size and playmaking ability but could see a lot of Patrick Kane tonight as Kane starts on the second line with former Ranger Artem Anisimov. How the Stepan line copes with Kane and co. will be a huge factor in the Rangers ability to leave Chicago with a season opening win.
Per the official Rangers Twitter, defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi and forward Mats Zuccarello will be held out of training camp activities for the first week. All three had offseason procedures (Staal – ankle, Girardi – bursa, Zucc – brain/skull), so it’s not surprising they will be held out. I’d expect they rejoin after the first round of cuts, which is usually comprised of the kids getting sent back to juniors.
Alain Vigneault has said all three will be ready for the start of the season.
Henrik Lundqvist is the most critical Ranger of all, Rick Nash is the Rangers’ solitary elite goalscorer and Ryan McDonagh is the undoubted leader of the Rangers deep and experienced blueline but the impact of Mats Zuccarello’s season ending injury last year was undeniable. As Marty St Louis slumped into retirement the Rangers lacked offensive punch and consistency as they lost to Tampa in the Conference Finals and they absolutely missed their Norwegian playmaker.
Entering a new season the Rangers have several new faces and multiple question marks throughout the line-up. How much will Cam Talbot be missed? Can Ryan McDonagh quickly get back to his best and who will pick up the slack following St Louis’ retirement? Above all however is the health of Zuccarello and his ability to get up to speed quickly.
Slowly but surely the oh-so-long hockey-less summer is coming to an end. Traverse City is around the corner, prospects are back in action and news is starting to filter through. Without further delay, let’s hit up Around the League one more time.
It’s the time of the year when we start to hear about try-out offers for veterans ahead of training camps. One that could offer some intrigue is the Blues inviting Scottie Upshall to camp. Upshall has flirted with 20 goals on a few occasions and at 31 could be a decent short term fill-in for the injured Patrick Berglund.
Prediction time: The Rangers will have three centers break fifty points. Kevin Hayes will build on his fine rookie year and scrape past the half-ton.
Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello has been ‘cleared for the new season’. With the time Zuke has had to heal I’m sure most people will not see this as a surprise but regardless, it’s good to hear. Zuccarello has become an increasingly integral part of the Rangers. His importance will only increase as the Rangers have gotten younger up front and have lost Marty St Louis.
New Jersey Devil veteran defenseman Bryce Salvador has retired after a solid 14 year career. Injuries robbed Salvador of almost all of his final year in the NHL.
The Pittsburgh Penguins continue to ‘search’ for new owners. Really, this franchise hasn’t deserved to be littered with legendary talent like Lemieux, Jagr and Crosby because it’s only been kept in the city by hook or by crook over the years. Multiple ownership, finance and arena issues; the Pens have never been a model of stability despite being in a strong sports market and boasting a regularly high quality on-ice product.
Let’s have a gander at the grades for the Rangers’ top two forward lines shall we?
Rick Nash’s overall season can be argued both as a positive and a negative. Indeed, there are few players that have divided opinion the way Nash has since he became a Ranger. A season that featured notable career highs but that was offset by another underwhelming postseason, things went as far as culminating with Nash being considered prime trade material this offseason. Hardly the appreciation you’d expect for a 42 goal player and early season Hart Trophy candidate. The problem is that Nash, like many Rangers, is now judged primarily on what he does after the regular season and this is where he failed to live up to both his regular season production and significant salary.
Nash needs to be a leader, the go-to guy offensively and in the postseason that didn’t happen nearly enough. Nash lacked postseason consistency, was never close to being his dominant regular season self and as the Rangers went quietly into the offseason, tellingly, so did Nash. Once again, despite solid numbers the microscope will firmly be on Nash come October. Despite the disappointing end, Nash finished in the top ten for the Hart trophy. Grade: B
It’s still amazing to think that just a couple of short seasons ago, Mats Zuccarello was toiling away in the KHL because, well, the Rangers didn’t really want him. At best, they were certainly not convinced by him. Fast forward a few years and Zuccarello is absolutely irreplaceable on a club that harbours annual Stanley Cup hopes.
We all saw how the Rangers struggled to generate consistent offense in the playoffs. Zuccarello’s enforced absence early in the playoffs was almost an instant death knell to the team’s hopes of winning the Cup. It shouldn’t have been the case however.
The Rangers had Rick Nash, they had Marty St Louis in position to step up, they had their trio of young centers all entering the playoffs in good form and they had Chris ‘Mr Playoff’ Kreider. But it didn’t work out as intended. St Louis literally played himself out of a new contract and maybe even out of the league. Nash hasn’t ridden himself of his playoffs demons. So what does it all mean?
- Ryan McDonagh had a fractured foot, suffered in Game 4.
- Dan Girardi sprained his right MCL in Game 4.
- Mats Zuccarello had a brain contusion (yeesh), full recovery expected. He was unable to talk for 3 days and needed speech therapy.
- Marc Staal had a hairline fracture in his ankle, suffered in the regular season.
While injuries are not an excuse, these injuries certainly played a role in the Rangers’ defensive performance in the latter half of the series.