Some thoughs on the Rangers at the midway mark:
MVP: Marc Staal. He’ll be 24 in a couple days, but he’s playing and leading like a 10-year veteran. Eighth in the NHL in ice time (25:29 a game), tops among Ranger defensemen with six goals, a healthy plus-9 logging all those minutes, adding power-play time to his duties this season... I wrote earlier this year that Ryan Callahan stood out as the next Rangers captain. Amending that: Staal is the guy.
Top forward: Brandon Dubinsky. He was not a favorite of John Tortorella’s for the bulk of last season -- the coach felt Dubinsky got a little too big-headed after a good game -- but that’s gone now. Dubinsky, spurred on by Callahan early on, has been hard-nosed and hard-edged to go with his scoring talents. He’s here to stay, provided the contract demands this summer aren’t too big.
Top goaltender: Henrik. He could easily be the team’s MVP, as he’s been just about every year he’s been a Ranger. The five shutouts through the first half are impressive; so is a 2.33 goals-against that had ballooned early on. He’ll be as rested as he’s ever been for the second half, too.
Biggest surprise: Brian Boyle. It isn’t just the 14 goals, though that’s certainly a shock. It’s the plus-9 rating, tied for tops among all Ranger forwards. It’s the penalty-killing, the forechecking, the consistency -- things Boyle never showed before. In essence, he’s become a bigger, younger version of Chris Drury: Defense and forechecking first, with some clutch goals thrown in.
Biggest disappointment: Michael Del Zotto. He’s hardly become a forgotten player, despite being in Hartford for the time being. At 20, he still has plenty to learn about the NHL game and about being a Ranger playing for Tortorella, who demands a ton. That the Rangers are going fine without him should be a reminder to Del Zotto that the time for working through your funks is over, for now.
Predictions for the second half: Mats Zuccarello sticks around with the big club the rest of the way and finishes with a dozen goals and plenty of new fans... The Rangers try and swing a trade for Ed Jovanovski but won’t part with any key prospects, and the deadline passes with only a minor trade or two... Wojtek Wolski, just acquired, does not click with Marian Gaborik and will be an enigma of Zherdevian proportions into the offseason... Gaborik finishes with a team-high 31 goals on a strong second-half push... Lundqvist plays 65 games, fewest since his rookie season... The Rangers finish with 102 points, good for fifth in the East... They beat the Flyers in a thrilling, six-game series in the first round, then fall short in six games to the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semis.