The Rangers head into their battle with the Capitals tonight shaking up their lineup a bit to perhaps give them more of an offensive spark against the Capitals.
With the Caps dedicating themselves a bit more to defense this year, the Rangers will be opting to go with Norwegian star Mats Zuccarello at forward and former Boston University standout Matt Gilroy on defense. They’ll be taking the place of Sean Avery and Steve Eminger.
The lineup moves are a bit curious as Avery can be useful as an agitator and a forechecker but for Zuccarello, normally the Rangers shootout specialist, the chance to do something big once again on a big stage is appealing as Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants shares.
“I’m not thinking about it too much,” Zuccarello said. “You don’t want to try to do too much, you don’t want to be too excited. It’s a coach’s decision and you respect that. I just try to be ready when he needs me. Whether you play three minutes or 60, you play hard. It’s a good feeling to be out there for the first game. I was pretty excited about that. I don’t look too far ahead, just focus on our game and stick with it.”
Last time we saw Zuccarello on a big stage it was last year at the Olympics for Team Norway. Zuccarello flourished playing for his country and now he’ll get the chance to do the same for the Rangers. Given how the Rangers have had their issues scoring all season, getting any kind of offensive boost would be a bonus. Unless Marian Gaborik can shake out of his season-long slump and match up well with Alexander Ovechkin, the Rangers don’t square off too well with the Caps.
They’ve gotten 20-goal seasons from Gaborik, Derek Stepan, Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky, and Ryan Callahan, but Callahan is out of action and the streakiness is a problem. Going into the teeth of a team that goes all out to stop you from scoring makes those problems even worse.
Subtracting Avery from the mix is something Tortorella has done towards the end of the season (six times in the final 13 games) and while he can cause problems for opponents and draw penalties, his mercurial state and ability to take bad penalties of his own is reason enough not to start him. If the Caps start taking liberties with the Rangers, however, we could see him back out there later in the series.