Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Monica McAlister on 06/13/14 at 07:20 AM ET
This 2014 Stanley Cup Final series mark the first time a Norwegian-born player has laced up the skated for a shot at hoisting the Stanley Cup. Though The New York Rangers are down 3-1 in the series heading into tonight's Game 5 in Los Angeles he should be in the talks along with Henrik Lundqvist for Conn Smythe should the Rangers dig out of the hole and win Lord Stanley's Cup.
Zuccarello is current 4th for the New York Rangers in points for the post season with 13 (5 goals, 10 assists) and is making a name for himself along side another player that went went undrafted by the NHL possibly due to the fact that they are both shorter than the average NHL player.
Martin St. Louis, 38, is 5'8" and made a name for himself in the NHL showing that in some cases in the NHL the bigger size isn't always better. Zuccarello is in that same boat coming in at 5'7" at age 26.
What a difference a coach can make... Zuccarello was a fringe player under Torts.— CharlieAmerk (@CharlieAmerk) June 12, 2014
The Norwegian left-winger almost missed out on this opportunity a second time. After not being drafted the was signed by the Rangers as a free agent in 2010 and made his North American debut with their AHL affiliate Connecticut Whale in the 2010-11 season playing 36 games. 2010-11 season saw Zuccarello's NHL debut playing 42 games with the Rangers and playing in one Stanley Cup Playoff game.
Bouncing between the NHL and the AHL he returned to Europe with a contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL during the 2012-13 season. His NHL contract had expired just as the league headed into the lockout. It was not until the end of March in 2013 that the New York Rangers signed Zuccarello to a one-year contract for the shortened NHL season.
The 2013-14 season has Zuccarello under another one-year contract in which with a full NHL regular season of ice time (77 games) has seen Zuccalrello score 59 points before his standout performance in the playoffs.
Playoffs -- Blocked shots by forwards Boyle 31 B.Smith 28 Zuccarello 28 Handzus 25 Stoll 24 St-Louis 21 Getzlaf 20 Kopitar 17 Kruger 17— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) June 12, 2014
John Sanful of the IIHF website had this to say about Mats being the Man and his return to the NHL from the KHL:
When John Tortorella was fired as head coach, Zuccarello worked his way into a regular role in new head coach Alain Vigneault’s squad. While there were some early struggles, including being scratched from the lineup, Zuccarello soon found his place and thrived under Vigneault, leading the team in scoring with 19 goals and 59 points in 77 games played.
Zuccarello is already one of the most prominent players in Norwegian history for his accomplishments in the NHL. With his 30 goals, he has already tied Espen Knutsen for the most tallies by a player from Norway. With 93 points as a Ranger, Zuccarello is 18 points away from being the leading all-time point scorer from his country in the NHL.
With success in Game Five, the Rangers now must head back to Los Angeles in the hopes of winning another to bring it back to the Garden. Zuccarello knows it will not be easy.
“It will be tough in Los Angeles; they will want to make it clear as soon as possible but we will hopefully give them a battle and go there with our best hockey,” he said.
“We are a tough team to play especially when Henke [Henrik Lundqvist] is on top. Anything can happen now. You have to win a game to win four so we’re on the way. We won on a bad day so if we have a good day and luck on our side, we will win as well.”
Puck drop for Game 5 is tonight at 8:00 p.m. EST on NBC.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org