So this is less than ideal….
The number one goal of the first round against the Penguins was to win and do it fast. The second goal was to get through the round healthy. Well, 50% isn’t bad I guess. The Rangers announced yesterday that stud winger Mats Zuccarello will be out indefinitely (most likely the rest of the playoffs) with a head injury. So how bad is this for Rangerstown? How much does the loss of Norwegian Bilbo Baggins actually hurt the Rangers chances at the Stanley cup?
First things first you have to look at the production that Zuccarello gives the Rangers statistically. The 27 year old winger was 5th on the Rangers in points with 49, putting 15 pucks in the back of the net and dishing out 34 assists for the blueshirts. His +17 rating put in in the top third of the team in terms of production on the ice. In last years Stanley Cup run, Zuccarello was maybe the
What Zuccarello brings to this Rangers team however is something that goes beyond stats. Zuccs is a fan favorite, a respected locker room presence and the spark plug for this team. All year, whenever the Rangers looked lackluster or tired or lazy, it was Zuccarello who seemed to always seemed to give the team the push they needed. With the way he flies down the ice with no regard for for the laws of science, Zuccarello has the ability to be an instant game changer if you aren’t watching out for him. Who was the Rangers best player when they began their run in early December? No, it wasn’t Nash or Lundqvist or McDonaugh, it was Zuccarello who put together a 10 game point streak to get the Rags going.
Still, it’s the playoffs, and there’s no time for excuses. It’s all about the next man up. So who’s going to be the next man up? It’s unclear who will take Zuccarello’s spot on the top line for the Rangers, although it would seem likely that either J.T. Miller or Martin St. Louis will slide up. Miller and St. Louis haven’t necessarily been lighting up the scoreboard, as they only have one point between the two of them.
So are the Rangers screwed? No, not really at least. Is there depth going to be tested now more than ever? Absolutely. But, that’s one thing that this Rangers team has proved night in and night out this season they have. Five guys scored the seven goals for the Rangers in the first round. Everybody on this team is dangerous. Now the only question is whether or not the Rangers will be able to finish the job without everybody’s favorite little hobbit.