Eric Staal’s First Game as a Ranger

The Rangers played the Columbus Blue Jackets, on home ice, in a 7 p.m. post-trade deadline matchup. New York beat out Columbus 2-1 with a new blueshirt on the ice, Eric Staal.


Rangers vs. Blue Jackets

The Rangers topped the Blue Jackets 2-1 with two rink-rattling goals from Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan. While the game itself might not have been the most exciting as far as goals or plays were concerned, there were other factors that made the game exciting to watch.

Staal, donning his new blue jersey, made an eagerly awaited debut on the ice since he was traded to the team Sunday, just prior to the deadline. Forward Jesper Fast was sidelined with the flu, letting defenseman Dylan McIlrath take the ice briefly with the fourth line. All the excitement happened with back-up goalie Antti Raanta taking strong stance between the pipes.

Zuccarello grabbed the Rangers’ first goal of the game at 17:41 in the first period; after grabbing a pass from Dan Boyle, Zucc took the puck around the back of the net before snapping a quick wrist shot that got through Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo.

Columbus tied the game up at the beginning of the third period when Cam Atkinson had a breakaway off a Dan Girardi turnover. This was the only goal Raanta let through in the game, blocking 26 shots and posting a .963 save percentage.

The Rangers were getting antsy after the game was tied and were searching out every scoring opportunity. When Marc Staal was sent to the box for tripping against Blue Jacket Matt Calvert at 15:19 in the third, a new urgency came through the team to keep Columbus from grabbing the lead.

The Rangers launched into their power kill, while Stepan launched into scoring mode. The last thing anyone was expecting at this point in the game was a shorthanded goal, but this was exactly what Stepan brought out. Stepan grabbed the puck from a long pass from McDonagh and started his strides to the net, he faked it and sent it flying past Korpisalo to grab the Rangers lead.

At the end of regulation the Blue Jackets attempted to tie up the score, but Raanta blocked the initial shot from Ryan Murray. The second shot, however, passed Raanta just moments after regulation ended; Raanta almost thought the game was tied but his teammates assured him the clock had already stopped and they had grabbed the win.

The shorthanded goal was Stepan’s second of the season and was the game winner in this matchup. Not only did Stepan save the game and help grab a win, along with excellent goal tending from Raanta, he grabbed a win for E. Staal’s Ranger debut.


Staal as a Blueshirt

Rangers fans were eager to see Staal take the ice for the first time in his new blue and red jersey. The shops at Madison Square Garden were readily decorated with Staal’s name and number in Rangers jersey fashion, and the only thing left was to see the forward take the ice for the first time.

Staal centered Kevin Hayes and Oscar Lindberg on the third line for most of the game and became part of the 2nd power play unit. The center won over 50% of his faceoffs and, though it was blocked, fired a strong shot on goal.

Even in his first appearance it was easy to see the speed, size, and puck possession that Staal was bringing to the ice. He was effectively moving the puck and using his speed and pace to his advantage as he played. His size, 6-foot-4 and 205 lbs, brought even more size to an already big line especially when skating next to the statuesque Hayes.

Staal and Hayes worked well together, while both are good puck handlers the two were able to help each other out with smart passes and good speed. Lindberg also played well beside the elite center and was able to perform good passes and take good shots.

On the power play Staal brought speed, size, and a long reach. He was able to break up passes and keep the Blue Jackets away from the puck. He was able to be a wall and stop the puck when necessary and worked effectively within his unit.

He made a good debut and, with Stepan’s short-handed goal to get the team ahead, it would also turn out to be a team win. While the new Ranger didn’t grab his first goal yet it doesn’t seem far off. Following the game the team had nothing but compliments for Staal and statements about the added confidence in the locker room.

Staal From Here On Out

After the win coach Alain Vigneault praised Staal’s size and puck protection, saying that after adding such a big component to the team that it was their job to “go out and get the job done.”

Staal is setting his aim on the playoffs and has said that he wants “to help the team win.” His play, as a player and within his  team, can be a great push for the team to get  to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Rangers are hungry for the finals this year; they want the Cup. From here on out every player is focused on putting their best play forward as they head towards their common goal.

Staal can be the missing piece that helps tie the team together. The Rangers have always been a strong team and have held their own in the playoffs in the past few years, but there was always a small component that prevented them from making it all the way.

This year the Rangers are ready, and are in hot pursuit of the playoffs, and so is Staal. His strong play, size, and confidence can be a big piece when it comes to getting the team through. When Rick Nash makes his anticipated return the team will be in full force and even more ready to chase the cup.

Staal will be a strong piece as they arrive to the playoffs at the end of the season. Though he hasn’t seen the playoffs in a few years he has 19 goals and 24 assists in 43 playoff games and won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006. He is confident and feels ready to make the run again with the Rangers.

A lot of play lies ahead, and the season hasn’t ended yet, but Rangers fans are looking to see how the team falls together over the next few games as the season dies down and are confident that the team will come together and rise.