MATT: Have to go with Friday night's hero, Rick Nash. On his game-winning goal, he never stopped moving. He was constantly looking for open ice to get through, and in the end, it paid off. He went to the slot and fanned on a rebound opportunity, but stayed with it and buried his second opportunity. As I wrote the other day, I think Nash is playing to prove that he belongs on Team Canada to those who questioned his inclusion. I don't think he has anything to prove, but if that's fueling him even more, than I welcome it.
My second star goes to Brad Richards, who is having his best week or so in a long time for the Rangers, as he finished last night with assists on the first two Rangers goals. Despite not scoring a goal — though he did hit the cross bar — Richards is shooting so much more than we've seen, especially when comparing this year to his challenging campaign a year ago. That shows me he's playing with confidence and it's turning into opportunities and production for the team. Richards had a pretty pass that led to an even prettier goal by Ryan Callahan in the first period, and later fed Mats Zuccarello who fired a perfect pass to Derick Brassard for the deflection goal. Richards finished his night with three shots and another eight attempts and won 52 percent of his faceoffs in 20:23 of ice time.
My third star was Mats Zuccarello, who continues to be the guy I love to watch most night after night. He's playing the best hockey of his career and seems to find his name on the scoresheet night after night. His assist on Derick Brassard's goal was a thing of beauty. That's a goal that Brassard would give all the credit to Zuccarello. I'd like to see Zuccarello improve on his plus-minus, but when you're scoring at about a point per game pace, it far outweighs that minor request.
JIM: No question Rick Nash came through in the clutch when the team needed him most, for the better part of 60 minutes I thought Brad Richards was the best Ranger out there on Friday. A couple of assists, including a nice second effort on his primary for Ryan Callahan's goal, a string of good scoring chances, and an ability get the puck through Dallas' muck in the neutral zone and into the offensive zone over 20:23 worth of ice time, are the reasons why Richards was my No. 1 Star Friday. His four-game point-scoring streak shows that Richards is finding his game once again after a brief lull, and that really helps balance out the team's offense.
I really liked Mats Zuccarello's game again, even though he played only 14:46. He was physical, taking the body all night, in on the forecheck, and just a real ball of energy, as usual. His pass on Derick Brassard's goal was a beauty, a set play the other team knows is likely coming, yet still can't stop because of the perfection of the pass. The Rangers have been distraught all season by their collective and individual inconsistencies, but one of the best things you can say about Zucc is that his play and effort are consistently strong on a night-in, night-out basis. He's my No. 2 Star.
I'd really like to find a way to work Ryan McDonagh into my Three Stars because I really feel he's deserving, but Rick Nash has to be on this list. He had a relatively quiet game, but when it mattered the most he made a big-time play in a clutch spot, and as a result the Rangers had themselves a 3-2 victory. That goal he scored was all about wanting it, as much as it was about skill, and was just great to see on so many different levels, not the least of which was it delivered two points to the home team. Nash was stopped on a breakaway in the second period and was hard to notice until it mattered most. Big-time goal by a player the Rangers need to deliver big-time plays.