In most cases, it is pretty safe to say that a NHL team’s best line is their first. Groundbreaking stuff, I know. However, that statement is strangely not true when talking about the New York Rangers.
One would figure that the Rangers’ first line of Derek Stepan with Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis would clearly be the team’s best, given those players talent, skill and career numbers, but that is not the case. Believe it or not, the Rangers’ third line of Derick Brassard with Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot has been their best and most consistent all regular season long, and it continued in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs vs. the Philadelphia Flyers.
Don’t believe me?
This season Zuccarello finished with the highest point total on the Rangers, Brassard finishing fourth and Pouliot eighth. Out of the Rangers’ current line configurations, this is the only line with every player finishing in the top 10 in points for the Rangers this season, and this is the line that has had the least tinkering of the four.
Since this line was put together earlier this season, the Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello line has been a mainstay on the Rangers’ depth chart. It has even gotten to the point where the Rangers depend on the energy, crisp passes and constant pressure their their line gives them each and every game. And whatever momentum they had in the regular season, they brought it to the playoffs, or at least for Game 1.
In said Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs vs. the Flyers on Thursday, the Rangers found themselves trailing 1-0 early in the first period and needed a big goal. Not only to tie the game at one, but also to get the home crowd back into it. The Rangers would tie the game at one before the end of the first period and go on to win Game 1, 4-1, but guess which line was on the ice for that first period game tying goal? It was their third line, with the goal going to Zuccarello.
You can argue that the Rangers’ third line does not have the names to make them the best on the team, but in my opinion you cannot deny the consistent production this line has had throughout the regular season. Hopefully that consistency follows suit in the playoffs for the Rangers.