Usually when you hear that a team’s top scorer has suffered an injury that will keep him out of action for an extended period of time, it is almost assumed that their team will suffer, and lose place in the standings. However, this season in the NHL the one instance of a top-scorer being injured had the opposite effect of what would be expected; when Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos broke his leg in November, the team did not lose a stride — they actually moved up in the standings. The question now is whether the New York Rangers can do the same in the wake of an injury to their leading scorer, Mats Zuccarello.
It might surprise some people to hear that Zuccarello is the Rangers’ leading scorer this season, but if you look at his level of play and dedication then it all makes sense. With Zuccarello out for at least three weeks, the Rangers will need some of their other big scorers to step up and fill the gap caused by Zuccarello’s injury.
One of the players that will be called on to replace the contribution of Zuccarello is Rangers star forward Rick Nash. Nash had a slow start to his season, but started heating up prior to the break. He now has 18 goals on the season, but he will have to really improve this number now more than ever with Zuccarello out.
Another player that needs to step it up is Derek Stepan. Stepan has had a decent season thus far, but has the potential to be even better, and a bigger offensive contributor for the Rangers. Stepan was part of the US Olympic team but saw no action as he was the healthy scratch for all of the games in Sochi. If that is not motivation enough to excel to show that he deserved to play in Sochi, then I do not know what is.
If the Rangers are going to continue their success without Zuccarello then they will really need for their other star forwards to light it up. Missing the guy that has 15 goals and 28 assists will be a big loss for the Rangers, but they have the talent and skill to do fine without Zuccarello as long as they get consistent and excellent play from their other star forwards. The Rangers have the ability to do just what the Lightning did when they lost Stamkos. All that is left is for the Rangers to do is to execute.