Derek Stepan’s improved form crucial to Rangers’ hopes

Derek Stepan is an essential to the Rangers

Derek Stepan is essential to the Rangers

Too many times this season, Derek Stepan – no longer a kid on the Rangers roster – has been a passenger. Despite having 48 points (on course for 55), most people consider his season an underwhelming one, which speaks to Derek’s talent and just how much fans expect of him. Stepan needs to be involved and needs to generate offense for his wingers for the Rangers to be successful. Recently, Stepan has improved and it bodes well for the stretch drive.

With 11 points in his last 10 games, Stepan has started to find some consistency including four goals in his last eight games. It goes beyond the numbers though. Using his goal last night against the Blue Jackets as an example, Stepan is going to the dangerous areas on the ice where he is more involved. He’s going to the net, he’s playing between the circles and recently, he’s looking to use his underrated shot more than he has for most of the season. Five games in a row, Stepan has registered at least two shots on net and looks more involved in games than at any other stage of the season.

The Rangers cannot make the playoffs without their top six producing and only Mats Zuccarello and Stepan have generated consistent production recently. With Chris Kreider’s form up and down (to be expected from a rookie), Rick Nash still inconsistent and Martin St Louis still struggling to make an impact, the burden on players such as Stepan and Zuccarello increases, especially with an underperforming power play.

Beyond this season it goes without saying that the Rangers need Stepan to take the next step. His lockout shortened season of a year ago suggested point per game potential. So, if the Rangers are going to be a consistent contender for the Cup long term – with Richards’ eventual departure leaving a hole at center – Stepan is essential to the Rangers hopes. Hopefully his recent upturn in form is a positive sign to the future, and the here and now.

Comments

  1. The swarming, cycling offensive machine continues to roll. What will it be like when MSL gets in gear (and he will)?

    I loved seeing Nash get passionate last night. All of the former CBJ’s were on it last night.

    Good post Chris. If Stepan is Stepin up an important cog right in the middle of the offensive machine will be operating at peak efficiency. Also, MacD on the back end just continues to make my jaw drop as he shows new aspects to his game nearly every game. Did you see the confidence in his stick handling going into the O zone?

    It’s not an overly tough or heavy team, but with grit (hello Pouliot, where did that come from?) and good goaltending (time to earn that payday Henrik) the Rangers can get something going. Assuming they get MSL going.

    Fun game. Still sad seeing Dubi and Artie on CBJ, but I have say I can see how annoyed other teams used to get with Dubi. Not a fun guy to play against.

    • If Dubi played that way every game, he’d still be a Ranger. He was just amped up against his former team. I liked Dubi but he’s too inconsistent. He drove Torts nuts. Otherwise I think Torts would have said “no way” as adding him in the Nash deal. He’s a Tortarella type player.

    • Thanks Gary. I do think Stepan is a key cog in the machine. It’s imperative he’s developed properly.

      • I agree with you both. I mean he’s the top Centerman on the NY Rangers. This isn’t some small market team. There’s superstar names on this team and Stepan is leading the way. Or supposed to be. He needs to be engaged every game and since the Olympic break ended he’s been that player. I’m very happy to see his production the last 10 or so games. If the Rangers are going anywhere this season, it has to be that way. I don’t think he’s the greatest skater nor do I believe he has the best shot but he doesn’t have to. He’s just like Brad Richards in the way he sees the ice better than most. A pass can get to any point faster than any player can. He is poised with the puck and never seems to panic with it. He just has to be engaged game in & game out. It’s the right time of season for Stepan to pick up his play and get back on track. IMO a hot streak through the rest of regular season and into the playoffs. Will erase any slow start he had.

    • I couldn’t believe my eyes when Pouliot dropped the gloves. IMO that shows team unity to me. I never seem to see from the Ranger players what is in the top teams players. Such as Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis. All the players stick up for one another. The Jacket players were getting a little too rough with our D and the (first) hit on Moore in the corner was a tipping point. Of all people Pouliot said something and fought Calvert. Nice to see some emotion from this team. They could win a lot more games by playing with a hot head more often. The players saw Nash as engaged as he was played this game to win. I think they saw how much it mattered to him. He doesn’t let out much emotion normally so to see the fist pump on the bench was awesome!

      • Now he’s shown he can play with an edge there’s no excuse for Nash not to do it more now. He needs to motivate himself for every game not just pick and choose. He’s far too talented to dip in and out f games.

  2. St Louis struggling or invisible?

    Can’t believe Sather gave up a #1 as well.

    Looks like the Lisin, Zherdev. or Bure trades that also engineered by Sather and ended in disaster.

    Hopes Sather or his replacement avoid UFA Stasny and target a right handed all around 27 yr old defenseman like Matt Niskanen

    • Marty is certainly struggling and looking very uncomfortable – lot of pressure to be a star in NY and it has to hurt him bad that his old team has now won five in a row without him.

      I like the idea of Marty and Zuke together because of there meshing style but at this point I’d like to see Marty on the wing with Steph – Marty has a way of bonding with the younger guys and bringing out the best in them.

      Marty will make this team better – but no one puts pressure on themselves than Marty – one he gets the first one it will all break loose….

      • St Louis was brought to NY to bring IMMEDIATE RESULTS.

        Rangers have 11 games left and St Louis has
        stunk for the 9 gms he has played since his arrival.

        If St Louis does not score a bunch of goals
        shortly and Rangers buy both buy out Richards
        and give up ANOTHER #1, hopefully Sather will be out of here.

        But you never know with Mr Dolan.

        The quote of the decade by James Dolan “Mr Jackson teached me a lot in our 2 hour meeting”.

        • Absolutely agree with you – I just think a big part of the problem is that the pressure of not doing what was clearly expected of him is having an effect.

          He is a proud guy and he is going to carry this trade on his back for a long time – it may ultimately cost him a HOF spot. Not in my mind – but he ruffled the feathers big time down here by forcing it.

          The guy can carry a team and has routinely done just that. His first game was his best one IMO – because he just got of the plane and he went out and played hockey. If he had just buried that first shot…but he didn’t and here we are.

          Here’s to one or three tonight Marty…