A lot of people were wondering if Marc Staal‘s time as an elite defenseman was ending after his second concussion earlier this season. As you recall, Staal suffered a major concussion at the hands of his brother, Eric Staal, in 2011 and missed the beginning of the 2011-12 season. He then suffered a gruesome eye injury last March and didn’t play the rest of the season. But Staal is back, healthy and he is playing at an elite level.
The New York Rangers defense has been excellent during their recent surge. They have found solid balance between pairs. In eight of the last 10 games the Rangers have held their opponents to under two goals. Staal has been a major part of this great defensive effort.
One of the Rangers’ broadcasters, Joe Micheletti, always talks about Staal’s reach. He is a tall 6-foot-4 and has a long reach. His reach gives him the ability to poke check opponents and knock the puck off their sticks. He has also shown that he is still willing to throw his body around and make some solid checks.
Another thing about Staal is how great his skating has been. When he first came back from his injury it looked like he was a step slow. But now he is back to skating well. He isn’t the fastest player but rarely gets burned.
Staal’s offensive game is starting to come along as well. Alain Vigneault encourages his defensemen to jump into plays and pinch in on the forecheck. Good teams beat players because of their ability to get their defensemen involved. If you can recall the Rangers’ playoff series against the Boston Bruins, the Bruins won large in part due to their defensemen getting involved. When there is an odd man rush defensemen can get involved trailing the play, beat back checkers and get a wide open slap shot in the slot.
It has been great to see Staal play great over the last month or so. He has four points in his last five games and is a +10 over those five games. Staal is playing at an All-Star level and should be getting more recognition from fans.