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Zuccarello resumes skating, shooting drills; Have faith in Henrik

Bobby Bevilacqua

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Mats Zuccarello was back on the ice for an optional skate Thursday afternoon, which is a very good sign for Rangers fans. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Thursday wound up being an off day for the Rangers’ skaters, but the team’s extra players all skated, which means Ryan Bourque, Chris Summers, Matt Hunwick and Cam Talbot. But this afternoon, there was another face on the ice, injured winger Mats Zuccarello.

Zuccarello has been out of the lineup since the conclusion of the series against the Penguins, when he was struck in the head with a puck in Game 5. It’s likely that he is sidelined with a concussion, although the team has not said anything about his injury.

Zucarello was in full gear for the optional skate, shooting on Cam Talbot and skating with Hunwick, Bourque and Summers. There wasn’t any contact, but seeing him skate, shoot and participate in basic drills is very encouraging.

He did not speak to media after he skated, and will not speak to the media until he is ready to practice with his teammates. Today was yet another step on the road to recovery. Vigneault said that “he’s coming along,” but won’t give much more than that. His exact timetable for a return is unknown.

New York could surely use him in the lineup, and they are missing his presence. He sees the ice better than any other forward, makes excellent passes and decisions, is strong on the forecheck, and can score every now and then. “Zuccs” is one of the best puck possession players on the team, and he’s also a sparkplug, always providing energy for the team and toughness despite his small frame. He’s the complete package, and the Rangers would love to have him back.

Last night, Henrik Lundqvist admittedly did not perform up to his standards, allowing six goals for the second consecutive game against the Lightning, both losses. Before Game 2 and 3 against Tampa Bay, Lundqvist had allowed more than five goals just once in his playoff career, his playoff debut in 2006.

Because of last night, some people began to question if he should start in Game 4, saying that Cam Talbot should get the nod. For some reason, people have extremely short memory, and have completely forgotten how good he was in the first 13 games of the playoffs.

One reporter actually had the audacity to ask Alain Vigneault if Henrik Lundqvist would get the start in Game 4, which drew a laugh from him. He simply responded with, “He’s our guy.”

Lundqvist has started 107 playoff games for the Rangers in his career, including 106 consecutive starts. He’s been the rock of every Rangers team since 2005, and is easily one of the best goalies in the world. If you’re questioning his ability to perform after watching these playoffs, you need a serious reality check.

In the first 13 playoff games, Lundqvist had allowed just 21 total goals, including just one goal in Game 1 against the Lightning. Lundqvist was dominant in every single game, and was a huge reason why the Rangers were able to comeback and take down the Capitals.

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Henrik Lundqvist has not played his best in Game 2 or 3, but that’s no reason to give up on him or the team. He’s still one of the best goalies in the world, and always shows up when his team needs him most. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

He admitted after last night’s game that he should have had Nikita Kucherov’s game winner in overtime. For some reason, he didn’t pick it up and it caught him off guard. But throughout the rest of the game, Lundqvist actually made some really good saves. With the quality chances Tampa Bay had, it could have easily been a nine or 10 goal performance from the Lightning.

The biggest difference between the Game 1 win over the Lightning and the last two games was the play of the rest of the team. In Game 2, the Rangers couldn’t stay out of the box, taking one stupid penalty after another, and then they couldn’t kill off any penalties. They also gave up a shorthanded goal on a 5-on-3 power play. Henrik was left out to dry.

Ryan McDonagh summed up the Rangers’ play defensively in Game 3 perfectly.

“We have to play much stronger in front of (Lundqvist), said McDonagh. “Our foundation is built on defensive play, and right now how we’ve played in that regard is a little shocking.”

I don’t think I have ever seen the Rangers perform as poor defensively as they did in Game 3. Tampa’s skaters were just walking through New York’s players on the blue line, easily getting to the middle of the ice, and getting incredible opportunities. Rangers forwards and defensemen missed assignments, gave up the puck, and didn’t defend well at all. It was atrocious.

Yes, Lundqvist could have been better, but the rest of the Rangers team needs to play a hell of a lot better as well, especially the defensemen. Defense has surprisingly been the biggest problem for the Rangers in the past few games.

Henrik is also extremely competitive and hard on himself. He seemed disappointed in his postgame interview, both in his team and in himself. He’ll go over the tapes, dig deep down and find his competitive edge for Game 4. I think he will bounce back, and so does he.

Lundqvist is the go to goalie. There aren’t many better “money” goaltenders in the NHL, and Lundqvist is usually very good when his team is facing elimination or when they need him to step up. He’s been the best player in these playoffs, and carried the Rangers and their anemic offense through the first two rounds. They would be nowhere without Lundqvist.

Henrik Lundqvist is your goalie in Game 4, and for the rest of the playoffs. As a Rangers fan, you should feel incredibly lucky and fortunate that that’s the case for New York. The Rangers are in extremely capable hands.

Quotes and information found on the New York Rangers official website.

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Posted on May 21, 2015, in Rangers Updates and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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