When the New York Rangers traded slumping superstar forward Marian Gaborik to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the April 3 trade deadline, they insisted that Derrick Brassard had to be a part of the multi-player deal. That logic has now been justified.
The Rangers ranked 15th in the NHL in goals per game during the regular season, but they had scored merely one goal in the first two games of their first round playoff matchup against the Washington Capitals, the main reason why they fell behind 2-0 in the series. Their offense needed a spark in games three and four in order to even up the series, and that is exactly what Brassard has given them.
The 25-year-old first round draft pick of the Jackets has five points (one goal and four assists) in the last two games and has developed an omnipresence on the ice. He ended their 0-for-10 drought on the power play when he lit the lamp one minute and 23 seconds into the second period and assisted on goals by Brian Boyle and Arron Asham in Monday night’s 4-3 win in Game 3.
On Wednesday night, Brassard felt like putting on an encore performance. He sent a beautiful cross-ice pass to speedy forward Carl Hagelin, who then launched a blistering slap shot that extended the Rangers’ margin to 2-0 at 10:13 of the second period. Brassard asserted himself once more on the power play when he expertly sent a backhand pass between two Washington defenders, which positioned defenseman Dan Girardi perfectly at the left point to tee off on another slap shot that rocketed past goalie Braden Holtby on the stick side to snap a 2-2 tie early in the third period. His efforts powered the Rangers to another 4-3 victory in Game 4 to knot the series 2-2.
The NHL Playoffs are home to unlikely heroes. Brasssard never experienced the postseason in five dismal seasons in Columbus, but he has looked like a postseason pro, finding a way to control his nerves and be a catalyst that has sparked an anemic Rangers offense. Time will tell whether he will continue his outstanding offensive output. However, his tremendous playmaking abilities have given the Rangers hope that they can actually come from behind and upset the Capitals.