GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 17: Marian Gaborik #10 of the New York Rangers celebrates with Michael Del Zotto #4 after Gaborik scored a first period power play goal agianst the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on December 17, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The New York Rangers are on a four-game winning streak, the team has already compiled a 21-8-4 record and is currently sitting first in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference. Let's just say it's been a good stat to the season this year.
And while we've talked about all the players who have been making a difference for the Rangers so far this year, I think it's time we give a little holiday love to Michael Del Zotto. There are still some people out there who believe that Del Zotto's play is "disastrous."
Del Zotto has grown significantly from the beginning of the season, and is a much more confidence and all-around better defenseman than he was in his first two years in the NHL. He is third in the league with a +22 (an overrated stat which is helped along significantly by Henrik Lundqvist), but it's important to note that he was a -20 his rookie year with Lundqvist as his goalie as well.
Join me after the jump for more.
We can start with Del Zotto's offense, which is getting better as well. With a two-assist performance in the win over the Philadelphia Flyers last night, Del Zotto has raised his season's totals to four goals and 15 assists for 19 points in 33 games.
Hos confidence is showing on the power play, where both Del Zotto and Brad Richards are gaining an understanding of one another and creating some truly lethal plays. Last night's little give-and-go between RIchards and Del Zotto before Richards faked the shot and dished a perfect pass to Marian Gaborik down low was brilliant, the Rangers' sniper just couldn't find a way to finish.
Del Zotto's defense has also be solid though. Twice the past two weeks Del Zotto has saved a sure goal from going in with some very intelligent hockey plays. But two goal-saving moves done make a good defense, they just put the cherry on top.
Del Zotto has been playing very solid in his own zone, winning battles in the corners and keeping everything to the outside. He's physical when he needs to be and is always one of the first defenseman in the crease to protect Lundqvist in a scrum.
His play has obviously caught John Tortorella's eye, with the coach trusting Del Zotto for nearly 23 minutes a night and giving him critical late-period minutes.
Del Zotto is an overlooked player who had to step up with the Marc Staal injury. While both Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh needed to take over the first pairing, Del Zotto needed to play a much larger role quicker than the coaching staff would have liked him too.
That's not a problem anymore though. Del Zotto has shown he can handle it. And the Rangers are a better team for it.