One night at Madison Square Garden

I attended the Carolina Hurricanes-New York Rangers game Monday night in Madison Square Garden. Here are a few thoughts:

1. The Rangers turned the puck over a lot. They were doing a lot of chasing but survived with Henrik Lundqvist, opportunistic goal scoring and one softy allowed in by Carolina's Cam Ward. The Rangers have a lot of crafty offensive players even with Derek Stepan out. Mats Zuccarello is the Rangers' most dangerous offensive forward, a true All-Star. Having him at a $4.5 million cap hit for this season and three more certainly looks like a great value if Zuccarello stays healthy.

2. Carl Hagelin scored 17 goals for the Rangers last season and has only two for the Anaheim Ducks. He is the kind of depth forward with wheels they could use in New York.

3. The Rangers can afford to be patient, watch how things congeal and let cap space slowly expand as the season's sand trickles through the hourglass. They are going to make the playoffs. But, you wonder how general manager Jeff Gorton and his talent evaluators feel about the key young players' immediate growth and eventual ceiling and how that all translates to winning postseason series against good teams.

4. Noah Hanifin, the fifth pick in last summer's draft, looked good. He is strong and will evolve into a pretty good offensive player. I think another year at Boston College would have been beneficial because he would have played in all situations and been on a good team with a chance to win a championship. Also he could have been ultra-aggressive offensively, which would have helped that part of his game. However, there is no doubt that Hanifin is physically strong enough to be in the NHL and he doesn't look out of place at all.

5. I don't think Hanifin will be a high-volume, dynamic point-accumulating guy offensively. But, I can see him at least evolving into a slightly bigger Ryan McDonagh. That certainly would be a very good thing.

6. Justin Faulk has really arrived as a top-tier defenseman. He's a great skater and has excellent spatial awareness. A very smart long-term sign by the Hurricanes. A $4.83 million cap hit for this season and four more. He's a fun player to watch in person. I love the smart skating defensemen who can provide a one-man breakout. With Faulk and Hanifin, the Canes are in great shape.

7. What the Hurricanes need is a franchise center. Eric Staal is a good player but he is not a great one. Jordan Staal is a No. 2 or No. 3 center. I wonder how other teams/scouts feel about Eric Staal? Does he make other players better? Would he produce more on a better team as a second-line guy playing with better players? He's only 31 but he didn't really stand out Monday against the Rangers. He's a free agent after this season. What's his worth? I think the best thing for Eric Staal's career is to allow a move to another team (he has a no-move clause), a good one with good players, and see how he produces and what it feels like. He could always return to Raleigh, North Carolina, where his family now has roots.

8. The Rangers really have an excellent fan base. Involved, invested and with a real personality. The refurbished arena is beautiful and I wish I could fit the Jumbotron in my living room. Going to a Rangers game in New York City between Thanksgiving and Christmas is something I highly recommend.

9. I thought referees Brad Watson and Trevor Hanson called a good game. You don't hear that in sports much these days.

10. Elias Lindholm, in his third season, got off to a really slow start this campaign after a nice bump last season (17 goals, 22 assists). He has played better recently with five points in five games. Lindholm, 21, was the fifth pick in the 2013 draft. The Canes really need to hit with the Swede. In an ideal world, the Hurricanes win the draft lottery and take Auston Matthews next year, giving them two young centers and two young defensemen to build around. If that happened, the Canes would get better fast.

11. Rick Nash still looks great. He should finish around 30 goals and it is exhilarating to see him dancing through the neutral zone with speed.