Hanky, Staals and Nash
The New York Rangers made an enormous acquisition 26 hours before the NHL Trade Deadline, that was, for the most part, anti-climactic. Eric Staal is a star, and though his numbers have declined, still has some superb hockey in front of him. Eric, his brother Marc, Rick Nash, and of course, Henrik Lundqvist, will be key to the New York Rangers having a long spring run.
The Rangers can rely on Henrik Lundqvist, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Keith Yandle to be big contributors, but, it will be the play of the Staal brothers, and a returning Rick Nash that will have a big say in how well the Rangers play down the stretch, and into the playoffs. Plenty will depend on how Alain Vigneault deploys these players. Rick Nash will undoubtedly go back to being on the top line with Brassard and Zuccarello, as well as the top Power Play unit. Nash, will also return to the penalty-kill alongside Derek Stepan. Stepan and Nash have that shorthanded chemistry that makes them extremely dangerous on the penalty-kill. Nash will play a crucial role, when he returns in about 10 days.
Rick Nash taking a twirl pic.twitter.com/oQsMuqhOPi
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) March 3, 2016
How Alain Vigneault deploys Eric Staal will be intriguing to say the least. AV has seemingly under-utilized Keith Yandle for a good portion of the season, and a mistake to misuse Eric Staal will be detrimental to the Rangers’ Stanley Cup hopes. Eric Staal can play wing, as well as center. Staal should be placed with Stepan and Chris Kreider. Having another big body that can score goals would help Derek Stepan pick up his game, and could only elevate the game of Chris Kreider, which NYR fans have been waiting for the entire season.
Eric Staal may also be utilized in front of the net on the Power Play. He’s not scared to go to the dirty areas of the ice, which in the playoffs, will be crucial. Goals are difficult to come by in the playoffs, teams get stingier, so guys who are willing to hang around the goal-mouth will get chances. Once Eric Staal finds his place and role on this team, we will see a revitalized hockey player. That, and a healthy Rick Nash can spell great things for this team.
Lastly, the play of Marc Staal has picked up in recent games. Number 18 is reaching less, and using his body a bit more to disconnect players from the puck. To me, the defense of the NYR has a hard time separating players from the puck. If Marc Staal could return to 75% of what he used to be, he will have a big say in how far the NYR can go. At times, he makes plays that remind you of the days he was shutting down Ovechkin and Crosby. Other times, he abandons the front of the net on opposing team’s power plays. If Marc can elevate his game on a consistent basis for the rest of this season, and into the playoffs, the Rangers will have a chance against anyone they encounter.