Marc Staal's 17:17 of ice time in his return to the Rangers line-up was for the most part uneventful. But the effect on his teammates was more than noticeable.
Here's Derek Stepan on the defensman's impact (via New York Post)…
"It’s huge. He makes the D-core calm,” said Derek Stepan. “He’s got a presence about him that he can just control a game. He did a great job tonight. … He found a way to get back to himself and I couldn’t be happier for him.
“Everyone really adores Marc. I know it’s a cheesy way to say it but we do.”
John Tortorella added (via Bergen Record)…
"He's so well respected in the room. This is two major injuries he's come back from. So, even before you step on the ice, I think that really helps your room."
Here's Staal on the eye…
“I could tell on the ice, it’s different,” said Staal. “You play your whole life with 20/20 vision and then you step out there and things definitely have changed. There are certain plays I saw a little different, but nothing I can’t get used to.
“You’re not used to playing, so that’s what’s constantly in your head, as to where if you don’t have it you’re just reacting, playing and your instincts just take over. I just want to get to that point as soon as possible.”
…Staal will be the first to admit he was a little rusty last night, but the emotional lift he gave the team was tangible. Last night was easily the most passionate and energetic the team has been in this series and I'll give all the credit to the return of Staal. Mindset means so much to the success of a team in the playoffs.
…and while Staal may personally not have had a huge impact on the ice, his mere presence makes the defensive corps that much more formidable. Especially when Tortorella is able to drop Del Zotto to the third pair and cut his minutes.
…i got to tell you though, my heart was in my throat when Staal took that big hit from Brouwer. Thought the worst. Especially when he wasn't getting much playing time early. Great that he was able to fight through it. I expect him to get better and more comfortable every game going forward.
Here's some post game video of Staal…