JIM: It was pretty easy to see right from the start of the game who the best Rangers on the ice was, and that was Ryan Callahan. The Rangers captain returned to the lineup after a seven-game absence due to a broken thumb and did not miss a beat, taking the body, skating hard in all three zones, getting involved in the offense. It's as if he had not been on the sidelines for nearly three weeks. Callahan delivered a game-high sx hits, blocked two shots, fired two shots on goal, and assisted on Michael Del Zotto's goal. He provided energy when for large swaths of the game, the Rangers were not playing with much of that component. His move up to the second line as the game progressed likely means more of a third line role now for Benoit Pouliot.
My No. 2 Star for the Rangers was Michael Del Zotto, who scored the team's only goal off a scramble in front of the Anaheim net late in the second period, and who has looked more confident of late creating offense. He had other good scoring chances in this game that he lamented not scoring on after it was all over, but on a night the Blueshirts were not generating many quality scoring chances, Del Zotto was right in the mix of many of them. He needs to get more of his shots on net, though---too many of his attempted shots were blocked or sailed wide of the mark.
My Third Star was Brad Richards, who was second on the team with five shots on goal, and who attempted a total of 12--far and away the most on the team. Yes, he had several shots blocked and others that carried wide of the net, but Richards was very active offensively, won 59 percent of his faceoffs, and played a solid 20 minutes of hockey Monday night---one of his better games in the last week or so.
2-Michael Del Zotto
MATT: In his return, I have to go with the captain as well, for many of the same reasons you gave. Ryan Callahan just changes the feel of this team and adds an element that is simply contagious. Look no further than the team's hit total last night: 35. When Callahan is in the lineup, his teammates feed off it. Personally, though, I don't mind Callahan on the third line to add even more balance. I've liked the trio of Benoit Pouliot, Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, and I think Callahan's game fits a third line more than Pouliots, but that's a good problem to have.
My second star goes to Carl Hagelin, who is he's quickly becoming one of the guys I look forward to watching the most on a nightly basis. He just makes things happen with his speed, which puts defenses on their heels. Despite being a smaller guy, Hagelin isn't shy about going around the net, which helped on Michael Del Zotto's goal late in the second period that gave the Rangers — and the crowd — some life heading into the third period. Hagelin finished his night with a hit and a blocked shot in 13:00.
My final star goes to Michael Del Zotto, who I also think has been playing much better than he had been lately. He was joining the rush as much as he could last night, which led to a few opportunities for the Rangers to break through on Anaheim, and of course, he pinched in the offensive zone and put home his first goal of the season. I think Del Zotto doesn't get enough credit — none from some — for his skill in joining the rush. Obviously, you'd like to see him produce more frequently, but as Derek Stepan showed Saturday night, once the first one goes in the flood gates could open.
1- Ryan Callahan
2- Carl Hagelin
3- Michael Del Zotto