clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Mats Zuccarello Is An Absolute Magician

New, comments

The title says it all. Breaking down all three of Zuccarello's points in Sunday's 4-3 win over the Maple Leafs.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Mats Zuccarello is a magician, and along with being the Rangers best forward right now he's just a fun player to watch in general. His production has masked Rick Nash's bad luck and the growing pains of some of the other forwards who aren't scoring the way they should be.

As is, Zuccarello is on pace for 41 goals, but his biggest asset has always been his passing, and he showed it off on two goals against Toronto. I'm not sure if he's going to keep up this torrent pace, but his game does seem to be getting better and better.

This is the start of the first goal. Dan Girardi grabbed a loose puck in the slot and fed it to Zuccarello who started breaking into the zone. Ryan McDonagh (the eventual goal scorer) is even with the Toronto defender here, but has the inside position. McDonagh smartly turns this into a quality 2-on-1 by moving into the soft spot of the ice. You'd be surprised how many players compact themselves on a odd man rushes.

Zuccarello has a pass open to him, but he's well aware it doesn't help anyone to get McDonagh the puck here. McDonagh, for what it's worth, turns the jets on to create some space from Tyler Bozak and get open. Zuccarello, meanwhile, has the full attention of the Maple Leafs defenseman who doesn't play the pass or the shot.

Zuccarello hits McDonagh at the perfect time. Not only does he get the puck beyond the two Maple Leafs defenseman in the area but look at all the net McDonagh has to work with because of the pass. Johnathan Bernier hasn't even taken his eyes of Zuccarello by the time McDonagh's let the puck go. Really take a moment to appreciate what McDonagh's working with here, too ... basically an entire empty net.

This is the second goal. Zuccarello (circled on the bottom) has the puck -- he entered the zone with possession which is rare these days -- and will get pushed behind the net by the defenseman. Derick Brassard (the other circle) knows better than to assume Zuccarello is just going to skate around the back and moves to the slot. Again, this is hockey 101.

Look. At. This. Pass. Not only has Zuccarello's drive into the zone locked up two Maple Leafs who are covering him, but it also allowed Brassard to get beyond his man and get his stick down for the goal. You can't see it here, but give Brassard a ton of credit for this goal. When Zuccarello starts his pass Brassard's stick is behind the defender (which is good defending) but as Zuccarello draws his attention Brassard slides his stick back to the front to get a shot off and scores.

And this is the game-winning goal. Zuccarello does a really smart thing here, he also follows the play. McDonagh's shot from the point (seemingly harmless) turns into a really juicy rebound that Zuccarello is only able to pounce on because he's following the play. At worst he forces a faceoff in the offensive zone. At best ... Well, see below:

Boom. Zuccarello gathers the fat rebound and has the ability to turn a semi-breakaway into a game-winning goal. He makes a move to open Bernier up and pushed the puck right through the five-hole. Since Toronto didn't really feel like playing defense here, you can see Zuccarello got to the net and took care of business without much trouble from any of the defenders who are hopeless to just watch him finish.

A perfect finish to a perfect night for the Norwegian.

Thoughts?