Mats Zuccarello wouldn’t rate his performance so far this season particularly highly. He’s gone from recording 59 points in 77 games in 2013-14 to eight goals and 18 assists in 46 contests this season.
“I know I haven’t been good enough,” Zuccarello told the New York Daily News. “It’s not just points. It’s creating more chances and other things. I know I can be better.”
The fact that he signed a one-year, $3.5 million “show me” contract does cross his mind, but he doesn’t want to use it as an excuse. He certainly would be in a better negotiating position if he had built off of last season’s success, but he still has Rangers coach Alain Vigneault in his corner.
“I believe that Mats is a very good hockey player; I would prefer he stay a New York Ranger,” Vigneault said. “I’ve made that very clear to management. I think that this young man has a lot of upside, and I do believe that he can play much better than he has this year.
“He can contribute at a more regular pace. I do see him as part of our future. But at the end of the day this is a business, and if he wants to stay, and we want him, there’s got to be a common ground. So that’s where that’s at right now.”
Zuccarello does have three points in his last two contests, but that comes after a stretch where he recorded just one assist in seven games. Still, there’s enough time left for the 27-year-old to turn his bounce back and put up solid numbers this season.
Updated Hart Trophy odds from online bookmaker Bovada:
Sidney Crosby 9/4
Jakub Voracek 9/2
Carey Price 13/2
Patrick Kane 8/1
Claude Giroux 17/2
Ryan Getzlaf 17/2
Alex Ovechkin 15/1
Rick Nash 15/1
Steven Stamkos 15/1
John Tavares 20/1
Vladimir Tarasenko 20/1
If I had a few bucks to throw at this, I’d be throwing it behind Carey Price. In my opinion, no player has been more responsible for his team’s success this season than the Canadiens’ star goalie. Granted, there’s still a lot of season left and that means a lot of time for a guy like Crosby to heat up, but if the voting occurred today, there’s a very good chance Price would get the nod.
With the Panthers down 4-3 midway through the third period, Florida forward Dave Bolland flicked the puck towards the net. It certainly wasn’t the most dangerous shot we have ever seen or the most difficult Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist faced tonight, but he deserves style points for the way he handled it:
Lundqvist turned aside 33 of 36 shots in a 6-3 victory over Florida. It was his 334th career win, which put him ahead of Nikolai Khabibulin and gave Lundqvist sole possession of 20th place on the NHL’s all-time list. Hall of Famer Gump Worsley is just two victories ahead of Lundqvist.
The Florida Panthers and Rangers were neck-and-neck for much of Monday’s contest, but New York pulled ahead in the third period with a stunning 21 shots in 20 minutes to earn a 6-3 victory.
Rick Nash scored his 30th goal of the season and later tied Alex Ovechkin for the league lead at 31 with an empty netter. It was defenseman Dan Boyle that broke the 3-3 tie though near the midway point of the third period:
Mats Zuccarello provided the insurance goal at 15:58 of the final frame and finished with two points tonight, giving him 26 points in 46 contests.
The Florida Panthers have now lost seven of their last eight contests and have only earned a consolation point once over that stretch. When that decline started, Florida was a mere point behind in the Wild Card race. Now the Panthers are eight points shy and have watched their playoff chances fall from 45.23% to 5.46% over that span, per Sports Club Stats. Given that the Panthers still have the best record among Eastern Conference teams without a playoff spot, it’s set up a situation where the larger story in the east over the final weeks of the regular season could be about playoff positioning rather than a battle for the final postseason spots.
.@HLundqvist30 (NYR) recorded his 334th career win in #FLAvsNYR and passed Nikolai Khabibulin for sole possession of 20th in all-time wins.
Rick Nash became the second player this season to reach the 30-goal mark and he did so in style.
With his New York Rangers trailing 1-0 and down a man near the midway point of the first period, Nash claimed the puck in the Rangers zone and took off on the breakaway opportunity. As the Panthers’ skaters played catch up, Nash outmaneuvered Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo:
He’s the first Ranger to net at least 30 goals and four shorthanded markers in the same season since Theo Fleury did it in 2000-01, per the Rangers’ Twitter feed.
This is Nash’s eighth 30-goal season, but it’s the first time he’s reached that milestone in a Rangers’ uniform. His first campaign with them was the 48-game lockout shortened season and he struggled in 2013-14 with 26 goals and 39 points in 65 contests.