Stepan And Zuccarello: Two of the Rangers Most Important Pieces

Derek Stepan put up two goals on Tuesday night against the Western Confrence leading Dallas Stars, his first goals since coming back from breaking his ribs after taking a hit from Boston Bruins forward Matt Beleskey. He first returned to the New York Rangers lineup on December 18the against the Winnipeg Jets. Since returning, counting the Dallas game, he has put up two goals, one assist and a +2 rating in six games. Mats Zuccarello however, has been in the lineup the entire time. He is on pace for the best year of his career when it comes to points. Other than Henrik Lundqvist of course, Stepan and Zuccarello are two of the most important chess pieces for the New York Rangers.

Stepan And Zuccarello: Two of the Rangers Most Important Pieces

Let’s go back to last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs. During Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs Zuccarello took a Ryan McDonagh slap shot to the side of the head. He wouldn’t return that game, or the rest of the playoffs for that matter. In his five games, Zuccarello put up two points.

Because of the shot to the head, Zuccarello suffered a brain contusion, had bleeding on the brain and had a hairline fracture of his skull. The Rangers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. “Zucc” was due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of last season. In a very smart decision, the Rangers re-signed him to a four-year, $18 million deal. They were able to hold on to a very good, underrated forward and a fan favorite.

Fast forward to this season and Zuccarello is putting up points like never before. In 39 games he has put up 16 goals and 15 assists; with those totals, he is close to averaging a point per game. Zuccarello seems to be the only Rangers forward who has put up consistent numbers all season.

Stepan is another story, as last season he put up 55 points in 68 games. During the playoffs, Stepan played 19 games and put up five goals and seven assists. One of his goals, perhaps one of the most important, was the Game 7 overtime winner to send the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals.

This season, Stepan has missed 11 games after the Beleskey hit. In those 11 games, the Rangers were 3-8. With Stepan in the lineup, the Rangers are 18-10 this season. He put on a show on Tuesday night against one of the league’s top teams in the Stars. He scored the first goal of the game early, less than two minutes in, and scored a shorthanded goal in the third period and the Rangers won 6-2. Since Stepan returned to the lineup, the Rangers are 3-4.

The point is, the Rangers wouldn’t be very far along if it weren’t for Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. They both put up points, they fight for the puck night in and night out and it shows on the score sheet and in the fans’ eyes. Obviously players like Lundqvist and McDonagh are huge for the Rangers as well, but there is little doubt that Stepan and Zuccarello are two of the most important pieces to that team’s success.

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