Back in January Marc Staal and the Rangers agreed to a 6 year contract extension that pays him an average of $5.7 million per season. After the deal was completed Rangers GM Glen Sather told ESPN that his defender “has been an inspiration for everyone in the organization, and he has become a role model for young players and veterans alike. We are excited that he will continue to provide that leadership in a Rangers uniform.” he has been living up to his extension, by quietly putting together a solid season for the New York Rangers. He has been a force on defense, and this season we are starting to see his offensive game get back to where it was, before his eye injury, and before his battle with post-concussion syndrome.
The Rangers played the Red Wings on Wednesday Night and got an impressive amount of offense from number 18 on the back end. He didn’t score, but did pump 5 shots at the net, to go along with hitting the goal post when in alone on Jimmy Howard. He could be seen joining the play on several occasions, something the Rangers haven’t seen from the defender in quite a while.
Jumping into the offensive zone
This performance comes after Staal found the back of the net against the Nashville Predators. The defender jumped in the play and found a way to get the puck past Pekka Rinne (seen below). He finished the game a +2 while logging 18:51 of ice time. The production gives him 5 goals and 17 points on the season. He was awarded the Broadway hat for his on ice performance. The hat is awarded after every Rangers win to the player who was thought to have the biggest impact in the victory.
Staal has long been used as a shutdown defender for the Rangers. Last season he played a big part in shutting down Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, in route to a Rangers game 7 win in the second round of the playoffs. Solid performances against the likes of Crosby and Ovechkin have turned him into a well known defensive defender. Below is a Wednesday Night Rivalry video focusing on him and Girardi trying to stop Alexander Ovechkin as a story line.
Staying the Course
Defensive defense men usually fly under the radar in the NHL, because when they are playing there best they can be hard to notice. The Rangers don’t need Staal to become more offensive, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. If he continues to be aggressive, and pump shots at the net he will add yet another element to and already excellent Rangers defense core.
The Hockey News projects him to finish this season with 7 goals, 16 assists, 107 shots on goal, and a +21 rating. His current point total is already the best it’s been since 2010-2011 when he recorded 29 points. For those of you who like advanced stats, you can see here that he is in the same realm as Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi in terms of Corsi.