We are only 10 games into the season, and Mats Zuccarello is shining. So much so that he seems to be the MVP of the New York Rangers.
By Connor Orchard
Whenever I have a conversation with somebody about the New York Rangers playoff run during the 2014-15 season, the first thing I always mention is how I thought the Blueshirts could have potentially gone all the way if it wasn’t for the head injury that Mats Zuccarello picked up in the first round of the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It was an injury that looked bad on paper, and looked even worse when the Rangers hit the ice without Zuccarello in the lineup. They missed the creativity that he brought to the team, and ultimately weren’t able to go all the way without him.
Now, with the Rangers hitting the ice for the 2015-16 season, Zuccarello has clearly put on his lucky skates, and came out the gates flying for the Rangers. In the first 10 games he has gathered up four goals and two assists.
I know what you’re thinking: “Zuccarello has more goals than assists, right? Surely not.”
Your eyes don’t deceive you. Zuccarello has recovered from his injury tremendously, and now looks more determined than ever to have his best season in the NHL yet. He is already creating highlight-reel passes, and is doing something a lot more this season, that he seemed afraid to do last year: shooting.
Now, I’m not sure if we’re witnessing the start of a superhero movie, or if the rest of the Rangers lineup just haven’t found their running shoes yet, and are making Zuccarello look better as a result of that, but that puck to the head seems to have given Zuccarello some kind of superpower, because there is definitely something different in his game that I have noticed this year that I didn’t notice last year. Whether it’s urgency in his game, the way he moves the puck, or simply just the fact that he is shooting more, something is different, and it’s making the Norwegian shine like a diamond. (No pun intended, Rihanna.)
Now lets be honest, Mats Zuccarello is a name that any New York Rangers fan loves to hear, especially when he’s producing goals for the team. You can almost guarantee that no matter how he contributes to the team, whether it’s with a goal or an assist, you will definitely hear the classic “ZUUUUCCC” chant ring around the arena.
One of my favorite things about Zuccarello, is even though he only stands at 5’7″ tall, and only weighs 179 pounds, he gives as good as he gets, whether it’s verbally or physically. And there is no doubt that if Zuccarello is on the ice when the fists are flying, he will be one of the first people there to stick up for his teammates. Hell, we’ve seen Zuccarello stand up to the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, you name it. If he’s big and tough, Zuccarello has probably stood up to him at least once.
We’ve all seen what Zuccarello can do in terms of his passing ability, even going as far back to the memorable no look pass he did in the first round of the Playoffs in the 2013-14 season against the Philadelphia Flyers, all the way to his most recent set up for Chris Kreider in the game against the Arizona Coyotes.
So what does this mean for the rest of the season? Well if Zuccarello can continue his tremendous form, continues to create chances like that, and keeps on putting the puck in the back of the net, then I see no reason as to why he couldn’t produce a 60, maybe even 70 point season.
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