Rangers vs Leafs Afterthoughts and let’s all applaud Magic Mats Zuccarello

Raanta is 4-0 this year (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Raanta is 4-0 this year (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

What a run the Rangers are on right now. I mean, it’s damn right impressive and it doesn’t look like it’s about to slow down either. I think many who feel the Rangers will suffer some regression (which is the fancy stats community’s more intelligent way of saying “come back down to Earth”) fail to realize is that Rick Nash has just 2 goals on the year. That will not continue much longer.

Even so, last night we saw the Rangers give up a few more than usual and hit more posts as well. And while their save and shooting percentages came closer to the pack for a night, they still managed to win. That’s the real game folks, no stats can capture the intangibles like playing under pressure and finding ways to win when you don’t have your best stuff.

Of course, we can test my theories this Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road.

Mats Zuccarello is straight up Magic

Zuccarello (Getty)

Zuccarello (Getty)

This is a special year for Zuccarello after suffering a career threatening brain injury last season. He has been a sheer joy to watch and appears to be getting better. It’s as if that injury has changed his approach to the game. Maybe he realizes that in one instant it can all come to an end, leading him to make the absolute most of this second chance. While he likely will not finish with the 82 points he is on pace for, a 25 goal campaign with 65 points is not unrealistic.

For More on Zuccarello read our feature on him from today.

Bet You Missed This!

In the euphoria of Zuccarello’s late game winning goal, I bet you didn’t see this sweet Ugly Rangers Christmas Sweater!

Zucc's goal with Ugly Christmas Sweater to boot

Zucc’s goal with Ugly Christmas Sweater to boot

Raantarific!

Antti Raanta has been impressive in his 4 appearances this year. The Finnish born netminder is 4-0 with a 1.25 GAA and a .955 SV%! It’s his play this season that has allowed Henrik Lundqvist to not only stay on a roll but to get that occasional night off a #1 goalie needs.

Last night was a tough one for Raanta as he experienced a little more of what Lundqvist does, and that’s more defensive lapses than usual. Usually the Rangers appear to buckle down defensively for him, but last night even though they only allowed 23 shots, they released to many of their men down low. Keith Yandle and Dylan McIlrath had a horrendous night defensively. Particularly on the Joffrey Lupul goal where both were extremely soft and unorganized leading to an easy tap in to tie it at 2.

Regardless, if Raanta continues to be this reliable, he will see more starts during the dog days of the hockey season in Jan and Feb.

Bad Ice, Smart Hockey

Derek Stepan admitted during his intermission broadcast that his 85 foot goal from center ice was intentional. Knowing that MSG hosted a basketball game in the afternoon, he was hoping for a “Knick bounce” as he called it.

The resulting play was a funny hop that squeaked through Leaf’s goaltender Jonathan Bernier and led to Babcock’s face that cried, “Why oh why didn’t I take the Buffalo offer.”

Next Up…the Lightning

Time for revenge for the ECF loss that should’ve never happened. In this game the Lightning will get Mats Zuccarello and all his magical wonder which they missed in the playoffs. Henrik Lundqvist will make the start as the Rangers look for win number 10 in a row.

I think it’s safe to say that Dylan McIlrath will take a seat as Dan Boyle will make a return to the lineup on Thursday. Also, will Emerson Etem be used in favor of Dominic Moore again? Some may suggest Jarret Stoll but it looks like he’s becoming an AV favorite so it’s unlikely.

For now, we have 3 days to laugh like Alain Vigneault over the tremendous start to this Rangers season.