Is Mats Zuccarello’s ‘lack of finish’ an issue?

Photo: Lou Capozzola/Getty Images North America
Photo: Lou Capozzola/Getty Images North America

Mats Zuccarello’s response to his healthy scratch against Philadelphia has been nothing short of immense.  At the time, Zuccarello was stumbling through the season doing nothing to warrant an extended future with the Rangers. Alain Vigneault was fully justified in removing the little Norwegian from the line-up when he did.

Since the 2-1 loss to the Flyers on the 24th October, Zuccarello has routinely flashed his high-end skill, perhaps encapsulated best by his perfect pass for Derek Stepan’s goal against the Penguins. Not many players would have tried that pass, let alone execute it so perfectly (the weighting of the pass was literally perfect for Stepan to skate to and roof past Fleury.)

With eight points in his last eight games Zuccarello has shown previously unseen consistency as –even accounting for the three assist splurge against the Hurricanes– he has only been held off the score sheet twice over that time frame. Not all is perfect though.

Zuccarello is struggling to score goals. With a dire 3.4% shooting percentage on the year Zuccarello isn’t hitting twine himself. Eventually opposing defences will begin to focus solely on the pass and it could potentially risk Zuccarello’s effectiveness long term. It’s fair to wonder what kind of goal scoring production we can expect when he has a career shooting percentage of under 9% in the NHL.

The problem isn’t opportunity. Unlike earlier in the season when Zuccarello wasn’t registering shots or getting chances, he has been regularly testing opposition goaltenders. Only once since that aforementioned Philly game has Zuccarello had less than one shot registered and again, versus Columbus Thursday night, he missed a glorious opportunity in front.

Is this is a legitimate concern? Right now Zuccarello is playing excellent hockey. He’s making plays, he’s buzzing around being a nuisance and he’s showing excellent chemistry with his linemates. Based purely on his recent stretch Zuccarello is pushing for more ice time and a longer stay with the Rangers. He’s started (finally) to look like a legitimate top six calibre forward.

The Rangers have returned to being a stingy team while at the same time are generating enough offense to win their fare share of games. Zuccarello has been a big part of that. It speaks volumes of the way the Rangers have turned their start around that one of the biggest gripes right now may be a lack of ‘finish’ from a guy with eight points in his last eight games. That’s the kind of complaint you want to have about your hockey team.

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  • Because of his size the Hobbit will not be one that will crash the net and score those dirty goals. He is a perimeter player and a very good playmaker. When he is skating hard and playing both ways he is effective in the lineup. The Rangers need to insert some more toughness in their line up to help make Zuccarello and others to play bigger.

  • If Zucc continues to play the way he has been with Step, and Kreider, I’m OK with his not being the big closer we’d like for him to be!

    He is the wooden spoon that stirs the tomato sauce on that line. Kreider is the speedster, Spen is the feeder, closer, and Zucc makes it all work well. He will get his share of goals as the season goes on, but for now I believe that he is being a very effective player. Like Bloomer said, a little more toughness in the line up will protect the likes of Step, Kreider, and the other skill guys!

    As an added bonus, if we get into a shoot out game, the kid will be one of the best, who will deliver for sure.

  • Just read an interesting article on MDZ, who may be benched after the last games performance. According to Brooks at the Post, I know folks he has a credibility issue, AV is upset at MDZ, and benched him for most of the third period the other night. Reason stated, decision making, and lack of production.

    Yesterday I said he looked afraid to handle the puck, maybe that is what Brooks is refering to as well. It will be interesting to see if he is benched for the next game, and if he is indeed traded sometime soon!!

    Your thoughts!!

    • Walt, the problem is trade value. He is obviously not playing well and the team is not going to get a top-4 dman value for him which, when he’s playing well he is. Tough call, but at least trading is the one thing Sather is good at…

      • I’m not saying he will be traded, but there was mention of it, that’s all!!

        Your right, he isn’t playing well, is in his last year, and being paid some $3 mill or so, and will want more! If he makes demands to that affect, let him walk, or better trade for picks!!

    • A trade for a less talented less expensive defenseman who can play the right side better than MDZ does might be a good idea. MDZ belongs on the left and the Rangers are unbalanced.

      Question: What are the natural sides of McIlraith and Allen?

  • Mdz looks afraid with the puck he makes panic passes and gets man handled by opponents to me.i think we’ve seen what we are going to get with him and there is no more room for improvement.

    • He might never be a first pairing but he IS much better than he is playing right now. Confidence means a lot, and he isn’t playing with very much at the moment.

  • Zucc will find twine, I firmly believe that. He’s had some games where he flat out got robbed and it would make sense that those even out over 82. The fact that he is making an impact on almost every game is great, if he introduces rubber to twine it’s a bonus (and he will).

  • Well, do you really expect him to maintain a shooting percentage of 3.4% ? If he was shooting his career 8.6%, that would give him almost 3 goals in 15 games, which would put him on a 16 goal pace over 82 games. As long as he is taking shots and still creating those brilliant passes, I wouldn’t worry too much about his finish.

  • Sorry for the completely unrelated post (well sort of), but Rick Nash is skating today with the extra players and goalies. It’s small progress but good to hear.

    I’d be thrilled if he was back for the game on 11/30 against Vancouver at MSG. Not because it’s Torts, but because the Rangers play one road game from 11/30 – 12/23(!!!). If he could be back by then, then he wouldn’t have to worry about getting on a plane for another 3+ weeks and could focus on getting back to game speed for a (hopefully still surging) Rangers team that really could use him.

  • Lack of finishing has been an issue for both Zuccarrello and Kreider to be fair, and yet they’ve both been two of the best forwards.

    Zukes and Kreider have both played fast and hard, forechecking, cycling the boards and setting up their teammates. They’ve been buzzibg around the net and both have had golden opportunities. Neither has made the most of those. Stepan has been the finisher.

    I think it will come. They’ve played too well to be overly concerned about this.

    • When that line is on the ice, the Rangers are keeping the other team pinned deep in their own zone, and scoring goals. As far as I can see, that’s a good thing, and i wouldn’t worry about who actually puts the puck in the net.

    • Last I checked assists are just as important as goals . Lack of finish nope hes been robbed a lot goals assists what does its matter he’s becoming one of the most important rangers and those three carried the team and still are

  • he is not a goal scorer never has been he’s a world class playmaker thT simple thesis article is stupid

  • Step-Zuc-Kreider were skating against Crosby’s line and holding their own. Zuccarello create chemistry and plays defense. The Ranger challenge isn’t getting more goals from him; it’s integrating Nash back into the lineup without wrecking team chemistry. That’s something Tortorella never really managed to do.

      • Not sure if I saw it on this blog or somewhere else, but somebody did a great write-up of Hags & Nash’s stats when they’re on the ice together. Bottomline is those two need to play with each other when Nash gets healthy.

      • the you would have something like this no?




        moore/boyle – dorsett – pyatt/miller

        thats interesting…

        • and in that case, Kreids, Nash, Pouliot and Boyle really need to throw their weight around cuz the rest of the guys (except cally and dorsett) dont really play a physical game (to the extent a guy like Kreids can and does) . Still, there is some decent skill there, and plenty of speed.

          Interesting to see what they do with Pyatts spot and also with Miller. JT is having a rough go of it of late, might be time to send him down to build some confidence cuz he’s is much better than he’s playing right now. Another not so easy decision.

          • He is probably going through the same thing that the Kreider kid did. He will improve and be a force!! Let’s not forget he is only 19-20??, not any older than that!!!!!

          • Yeah for sure, Miller is very young, 20 as a matter of fact, he’s going to be fine.

            On a side note, can you believe MDZ has been in the league 5 years now and is still only 23! Not sure what to make of that…

          • Still hasn’t reached his potential, or has he hit a brick wall, and this is all we will get out of him??? I believe we were sold a bill of goods with him!!!!

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