Michael Del Zotto is the best offensive defenseman on the roster and in March he showed why. He had seven assists, including three on the power play and showed improved defensive poise. He handled the increase in minutes that came after the Marc Staal injury with relative ease.
For whatever reason, April hasn't been as kind.
He has just one assist and played poorly on defense against Toronto on Monday. In fact, a few defensive positioning mistakes led to goals for the Maple Leafs.
The more stout he can play on defense, the better it is for the Rangers. He's seeing increased minutes, averaging almost 26 minutes per game. But with that added responsibility comes added pressure. If he makes the mistakes he did against Toronto, then the Rangers are in trouble.
The Rangers are built from the net out, meaning they place increased importance on their goaltending and defense. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been solid, as have Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. Del Zotto, on the whole, has been solid, but April has been a tough month. With Marc Staal out, Del Zotto has to step up. He showed flashes in March but hasn't hit his stride in April.
Additionally, the power play has improved since the Gaborik trade, but it hasn't been because of Del Zotto. The Rangers have scored five power-play goals, but Del Zotto has assisted on just one of them. His time on the point has been taken over by Mats Zuccarello.
The more Del Zotto can lead the rush, make crisp outlet passes and quarterback the power play, the more goals will be scored. The better his positioning is in his own end, the less goals will be scored.
Del Zotto is important because he contributes in so many ways. If he begins to falter, it will be a problem for the Rangers.
He needs to find his game from March to help the Rangers.