Quick Hits – Rangers vs Penguins 4/9/17
Here is my recap of the Rangers 3-2 win over the Penguins
Mats Zuccarello – Before the action got started on the ice, there was something much more important that took place. In a ceremony that didn’t leave many dry eyes, yours truly included, Conor and Pati Ann McDonald presented Zuccarello with the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. The award, which was established in the 1987-88 season, is given every year to the Rangers player who “goes above and beyond the call of duty.” Zuccarello’s style of play lends itself to being a top candidate for this award every single season. It was his third time winning the prestigious award, and he takes it very seriously. This one though has more significance, being the first time the award was presented without Detective Steven McDonald, who passed away in January of this year. Zuccarello was very humbled when talking about the honor.
Jimmy Vesey – With the game tied at two in the third period, the Rangers had an offensive zone faceoff. After Zibanejad won the draw back to himself, he feathered a beautiful pass to the rookie, who backhanded one over the glove of Tristan Jarry for the game winner. Vesey now has 16 goals in his first go around in the NHL, and if he can start putting his game together, he becomes an important asset for the Rangers in the playoffs.
Ryan McDonagh – If you turned on this game and saw Ryan McDonagh’s goal, you would never have known he missed the team’s last four games. The captain took the puck in his own zone, skated through the Penguins defense and wired a wrist shot past Tristan Jarry. McDonagh has been the Rangers best defenseman since Brian Leetch, and he has picked up his offensive game. He finished the year just one point shy of tying his career high of 43 points. His defensive game will be there, but if he can consistently add some points from the blue line, he ups his value to the team and for oppositions to defend.
Special Teams – In a rare moment this season, the Rangers did not take a penalty in this one. They played a disciplined and under control game. The only penalty of the game was against the Penguins toward the end of the first period for hooking.
“[I’m] honored. It’s a proud moment for me,” Zuccarello said. “I think a lot of guys on our team could have had that award. I am really humbled that I was the one, especially this year. Every year, for me, this is the biggest award to win and I’m really proud of it. Obviously, you couldn’t have done it without your teammates and your team. I think everyone shares this award and especially this year.”
After Mika Zibanejad won the faceoff back to McDonagh, the captain laid a perfect pass for Stepan. Stepan stepped into it and one-timed a shot past the screened goalie. The alternate captain has bounced back since his two-month skid in February and March, which will be a very welcome sign come round one.
Magnus Hellberg – After Antti Raanta was injured in practice, the Rangers recalled Magnus Hellberg, who made his first career start. Hellberg, who is listed at 6’6″, has a real presence in the blue paint. He is able to handle the puck and was able to fight through a few screened shots. He made this save early in the first on Phil Kessel, and that set the tone for him the rest of the night. Magnus also picked up his first career win. Hellberg won’t be seeing the nets on Broadway for a while, but he handled his first full 60 minutes very well.
A Meaningless Game? – While on paper this game was being played for pride with both teams set for the first round, this game still had some significance. The Rangers have struggled this season at home but will be entering the postseason with a two-game home win streak. The power play converted on its only chance of the night and has been at a 31.3% clip in the last month of the season. Alain Vigneault was also able to rest some forwards, while bringing back those that have been resting. There are no meaningless games in the NHL. Just because the points don’t matter, doesn’t mean that the game is insignificant.
NEXT GAME: The Rangers kick off the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Montreal when they face the Canadiens. Puck drops at 7!
LETS GO RANGERS!!