New York Rangers' Biggest Early Surprises in 2013-14 Season

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIIOctober 7, 2013

New York Rangers' Biggest Early Surprises in 2013-14 Season

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    The New York Rangers have played one pretty disappointing game in the 2013-14 season. Their 4-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes did not strike confidence in the heart of Rangers fans.

    Still, there were some good things. In particular, there were a few players who had surprisingly good debuts.

    Who have been the Rangers' biggest early surprises thus far?

    Read on to find out.  

Marc Staal

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    After Marc Staal suffered a gruesome eye injury in March, it would not have been preposterous to think he would struggle upon returning to the lineup. Besides being tentative, Staal could easily have been expected to make mistakes in his own zone due to the change in his vision.

    Staal returned for one game in the 2012-13 postseason, and played admirably, but was shut down for the remainder of the season. He told Rick Carpiniello of USA Today that he struggled with depth perception: "I was having trouble with the depth perception early and things were moving quickly around me. I was having trouble tracking and staying focused on what I was doing."

    So it would not be surprising if Staal struggled this season. 

    Yet the absolute opposite has happened. Staal has been a dominant force since the preseason, where he scored two goals, and picked it up in the regular-season opener. Against Phoenix, Staal played a game-high 25:40 and scored a power-play goal. He also had two shots and three hits. He was by far the best defenseman on the ice. His conditioning is superb, and his skating actually seems better than it was before the injury.

    It was only one game, and there may be struggles for Staal. Still, his recovery from his injury has been remarkable. He was pretty dominant against Phoenix, and if this continues, the Rangers will have one of the best defenseman in the league playing the best hockey of his career. 

Dominic Moore

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    It hasn't been an easy year for Dominic Moore. He took last season off after the tragic death of his wife, Katie, who succumbed to liver cancer at the tender age of 32. 

    Moore spent the preseason getting his legs under him and played pretty well. Alain Vigneault told Newsday how impressed he was:

    I told him I'm extremely pleased by what I saw in training camp. For a guy not having played a full year, with what he's been through, he's stepped in, his conditioning, his timing, was very, very good; the more he played, the better he got.

    I still don't think his game is where—and he felt the same way—it can be, but where it is now, having not played the year, is very impressive.

    Moore has taken on a significant defensive role for the Rangers. He played 11:55 in the first game against the Coyotes and looked solid on the penalty kill. He took 12 faceoffs and won five.

    It seems like Vigneault is going to rely heavily on Moore. Moore has always been a fantastic defensive center and is an excellent penalty-killer. When the game is close, Moore will likely be out there.

    After such a challenging year, it's nice to see Moore back on the ice. The rust seems all but off. Once he's back to his regular self, he's going to be an important player for the Rangers. 

Benoit Pouliot

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    Benoit Pouliot signed a modest one-year contract for $1.3 million this offseason.

    It looks as if that's going to be a bargain. 

    Pouliot is proving to be dynamic on the wing. Playing with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, Pouliot has used his body to charge to the net. He is a terrific skater for his size and has deft hands.

    This trio has displayed a lot of chemistry since the start of camp. They almost scored a beautiful tic-tac-toe goals against Phoenix, and they were by far the best line.

    Pouliot has had an inconsistent career. After being drafted fourth overall by the Minnesota Wild in 2005, Pouliot struggled, scoring just nine goals in parts of three seasons.

    He was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in the middle of the 2009-10 season, where he proceeded to score 15 goals in 39 games.

    He's never been able to replicate that magic, but Pouliot did notch 32 points for the Boston Bruins in 2011-12. He is a talented winger, and while he hasn't lived up to his lofty draft status, he is settling in nicely on the second line.

    There is no reason why Pouliot can't score 20 goals this year. He is playing with a talented center in Brassard and has been swarming the the net with authority. It could be a big season for Pouliot, and he will turn out to be one of the best signings of the offseason.