Rangers Vs. Hurricanes: More Of That Please

Al Bello

Notes from the Rangers' win over the Hurricanes.

- I want to start by congratulating Mats Zuccarello on winning the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. It might seem like a stupid thing to those outside the fanbase, but we have a very special relationship with the police and firemen in New York, and I've always felt like the Extra Effort Award was a really special accomplishment. Especially because it usually goes to the down-and-dirty player who don't really score goals and who go the extra mile every shift. This year, it went to a player like that who also does everything offensively. Very deserving, and I think it says a lot about Zuccarello that he was able to beat out a player like Ryan McDonagh, too.

- When I think about Zuccarello, I think back to this summer and the offseason when people didn't want him. "He is too small. He isn't a smart enough hockey player. If the Rangers need him to produce they're not winning the Stanley Cup." The Rangers wouldn't be where they are today without him. Seriously, he's been the team's most consistent offensive force this year. His assist on the Benoit Pouliot goal -- freezing the entire defense, moving into a shooting lane and putting a picture-perfect pass on Pouliot's tape -- is a good example of his range. And if he shot the puck a little more this year, he'd have far more than 19 goals.

- The Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Zuccarello line was dominant again. I've seen some suggestions that Alain Vigneault should break up that trio to get some other guys going. I can't disagree more. That line has been a constant for most of the year, and now that Brassard has been back on his game, they can be lethal. No need to mess with that chemistry.

- Martin St. Louis looks a lot like he's becoming himself again. He didn't just have three assists in the Rangers' win, he had two jaw-dropping assists, including a behind the back strike to Brad Richards on the team's first power play goal. His assist on the Derek Stepan goal? Just as pretty with maybe even a higher level of difficulty. I always maintained that when St. Louis started going it would come in bunches. This was the first game we saw that come to life. Hopefully it continues.

- Speaking of Stepan, he had a goal and an assist. Now 21 points in his last 21 games. The Stepan Attack Machine has quieted down significantly, as it should have a long time ago. I'm still not allowed to defend him (Lent is almost over) but I will just leave his 17 goals, 39 assists and 56 points in 80 games here. That includes a slow start to the year. Appreciate what you have in him.

- I thought Rick Nash was good but kind of quiet for most of the game. That's the beauty of St. Louis, though. If he's on his game then quiet games from Nash aren't as noticeable or dangerous. Same goes for St. Louis being quiet if Nash is on his game.

- Richards scoring goals is only a positive for this team. As is the Rangers' power play converting with some form of consistency. The most important thing that happened to the Rangers -- and what helped them break out of their early season struggles -- was the scoring balancing out. The Rangers have 10 players with 14 goals or more. And three players with 20 goals or more. Remove St. Louis from that equation (since he was only here for the tail end of the season) and it's nine players with 14 goals or more and two 20-goal scorers. That's a lot of goal scoring from a lot of players. Hopefully that continues as well.

- Henrik Lundqvist was immense as well. Not much more you need to say there.

- Good news? McDonagh and Chris Kreider skated. Hopefully they're both back sooner rather than later.

- If I'm Glen Sather my biggest off-season signing is Mats Zuccarello. Then he needs to focus on bringing back as much of the fourth line as he can (if not all of it) and Pouliot. Brassard is a priority, too.

- I watched the post-game show last night, which isn't something I do all the time. I really watched it because Vigneault was on and I was curious to see what he had to say. To my surprise (and maybe this speaks to how long it's been since I watched a post-game show) there was joking and laughter in the interview room. It's been a long time since there's been that kind of atmosphere with the team. And that's not a knock on Torts, it really isn't. But the boys look like they're having fun while also pushing each other to win, and that makes a team so much more dangerous. A family goes further than a team, I've always believed that.

- The Blue Jackets and Flyers both won yesterday, so the games are a wash. If the Rangers win out (just two more games to go) they clinch home ice in the first round no matter what happens. Any combination of the Rangers earning two points or Columbus dropping two points locks the Rangers in a Metropolitan Division playoff spot. The Rangers just need to stay on pace with the Flyers (the Rangers hold the tiebreaker) to lock down home ice advantage. So both teams getting the same results helps the Rangers, regardless of what the result is.

- Thoughts?

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