Don’t worry be happy. Photo: Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News
The Rangers have been the equal of the Kings in all three contests so far, and yet the Rangers are facing a 3-0 series deficit and probable defeat in the Stanley Cup Final. On the heels of a promising yet inconsistent first regular season under Alain Vigneault, the Rangers have shown a huge amount of promise in the playoffs to get to their first Cup Final since the magical ride of 1994.
There has been a ton of positives that should provide plenty of hope for the future. Smiling in the face of defeat, let’s look at a few things that should excite Rangers fans moving forward.
Norway has a hockey force
It seems a long, long time ago since the whole ‘Is Mats Zuccarello NHL calibre’ debate. Zuccarello has grown throughout this season (and the Final) and after discussing whether Zuccarello could do more after Game One of the Cup Final, boy has he.
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The Rangers needs more from Zuccarello, starting tonight.
The Rangers enter tonight’s crucial game two trailing the Kings after one and given the Rangers relative poor home form it’s essential they get even in the series tonight. The Rangers could really do with winning tonight’s game two as the pressure would be back on the Kings heading to New York. To do so, several Rangers are going to have to improve on their recent performances. Let’s take a look at three Rangers who could have a huge influence on tonight’s game with improved performances.
Following a breakout year leading the Rangers offensively and being part of the club’s most consistent line all year long, things have gone stale for the little Norwegian. With no points in his last six playoff games Zuccarello is the definition of cold. For a team with no obvious, go-to offensive producer and for a team reliant on balanced scoring Zuccarello can’t remain so ineffective in game two.
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Note: Goal breakdown will be up this afternoon. Sorry about the delay.
The Rangers won in impressive style in Pittsburgh on Friday night. Impressive because they were hard on the puck, they were opportunistic but most importantly when they lost their lead, they didn’t panic and worked their way back in to a solid position. They handled – at least for game one – the surges that eventually came from Pittsburgh over the final two periods. The Rangers were around Fleury all night which resulted in the game winning goal but which also begs the question; why can’t the powerplay convert?
We’ve mentioned it before but Benoit Pouliot (surely the recipient of a shiny new deal from the Rangers this summer) goes hard to the net and he gets rewarded. The Rangers best line of Zuccarello – Brassard – Pouliot are consistently a creative force and something that is missing from the powerplay, their line is always moving, always busy and always looking for the puck. The fact is, game one of this series would have been won well before overtime had the Rangers managed to convert on the powerplay. The talent is there, the execution isn’t.
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Zuccarello’s here to stay
It goes without saying that the Rangers – barring unforeseen circumstances – will be offering leading scorer Mats Zuccarello a new deal in the summer. Zuccarello was a creative spark when he returned from the KHL last year and has been a stunning surprise this year – no one foresaw Zuccarello leading the Rangers offensively. With all that said, has Zuccarello done enough to warrant a long term commitment from the Rangers?
As a restricted free agent, Zuccarello doesn’t have a significant amount of leverage but sometimes numbers do speak for themselves. Zuccarello established career highs in every meaningful offensive statistic while his line with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot was the Rangers most consistent all season long. On an inconsistent powerplay Zuccarello was one of the few constants.
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• I’ll admit, it was really disappointing to see the Flyers strike first after such a dominant chance/possession showing in the first period by the Rangers. Hartnell’s hit on McDonagh that directly lead to McDonald’s goal was the stuff nightmares are made of. Fortunately, the Flyers abandoned the hard, forechecking physicality in favor of stupid stick penalties.
• Philly looked to have a bit of whiplash from the Rangers’ three scoring lines. Clearly, their priority pre-game was to shut down the St. Louis-Stepan-Nash line, but every time they turned their attention there, they got burned by Zuccarello or Richards or Hagelin.
• The first two periods were something of a microcosm of the Rangers season: tantalizing chances, high possession and yet no goals. Ray Emery made some half-decent saves, but it would have been really nice to be up 3-1 in the first or second.
• There really wasn’t a weak link the lineup last night. I thought all three defensive pairs acquitted themselves well, and the forward lines looked balanced and moved the puck exceedingly well. Read more »
RMcD = MVP? Photo Credit: LoHud
Today is the day a rivalry gets renewed. The Rangers entertain the Flyers tonight in a much anticipated series. Let’s throw a few musings up.
The series against the Flyers represents a no-win situation for the Rangers. In all honesty, there is not a huge amount separating the two teams but yet everyone expects the Rangers to win. The Flyers have a ton of talent but are very flawed. That said, it wouldn’t be the greatest of shocks if they beat the Rangers but it would cause serious fall-out in New York.
Is there a single Ranger forward you wouldn’t swap for Claude Giroux?
Beyond the obvious (Hank, McD, Nash), who holds they key to the second round for the Rangers? Mats Zuccarello. He has been the Rangers best powerplay forward all year and you have to assume the Flyers will take more penalties than the Rangers. If the Rangers can stay out of the box and Zuccarello can work some PP magic that may be the decisive factor.
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Just prior to tonight’s puck drop with Carolina, the Rangers held a ceremony to announce the winner of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. The Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award has been presented each season since 1987-88 to the Rangers player who goes above and beyond the normal call of duty, and is named in honor of paralyzed New York City police officer Steven McDonald.
This year’s winner was Mats Zuccarello, who has been the backbone of this team offensively and a bit of a troublemaker when he doesn’t have the puck. Former captain Ryan Callahan had won the award four of the previous five years.
Little man get paid big?
Yes, I know Dave gave you a Musings this morning. Whatever. You’re being spoiled today with two. As the Rangers close in on a playoff spot, form, health and special teams become so incredibly important at this time of the year. With the Avalanche on tap this evening, let’s have a muse for the second time today.
It’s nice to see the Captain (the real captain) holds no apparent bitterness toward the Rangers following his coaching snub last summer. Mark Messier says the Rangers have a chance at the Cup and, if they avoid the Bruins, there’s no reason to think they can’t go far if health and form holds up.
That said, the Rangers cannot go far in the post season without a better powerplay and consistency from Nash, St Louis, Richards – in that order. The defense will keep this team in games, Henrik Lundqvist will steal games but the offense needs to spot the King a lead or two. Stating the obvious?
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Too many times this season, Derek Stepan – no longer a kid on the Rangers roster – has been a passenger. Despite having 48 points (on course for 55), most people consider his season an underwhelming one, which speaks to Derek’s talent and just how much fans expect of him. Stepan needs to be involved and needs to generate offense for his wingers for the Rangers to be successful. Recently, Stepan has improved and it bodes well for the stretch drive.
With 11 points in his last 10 games, Stepan has started to find some consistency including four goals in his last eight games. It goes beyond the numbers though. Using his goal last night against the Blue Jackets as an example, Stepan is going to the dangerous areas on the ice where he is more involved. He’s going to the net, he’s playing between the circles and recently, he’s looking to use his underrated shot more than he has for most of the season. Five games in a row, Stepan has registered at least two shots on net and looks more involved in games than at any other stage of the season.
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Per Andrew Gross, the Rangers are getting back their leading scorer (well, not including Martin St. Louis) tonight, as Mats Zuccarello will be rejoining the lineup after suffering a broken hand in the Olympics. Zuccarello missed Norway’s final game in Sochi and the first five games since the break. Zucc will likely rejoin linemates Benoit Pouliot and Derick Brassard on the third line.
Derek Dorsett, who was the only forward at the optional skate this morning, will likely sit.