After having held out of training camp in a ploy to get a favorable contract extension, New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan settled on a two-year, $6.15 million contract with the team. While he was rewarded with a new deal, one can argue that he has had somewhat of a disappointing season with seven goals and 20 assists entering Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators. So much as Stepan’s play been considered disappointing that his selection to the Team USA Olympic squad headed to Sochi raised a number of eyebrows.
As the Rangers notched a 4-1 over the Senators, it was a game which can easily be classified as Stepan’s best game over the season — aside from having three points in the game, equaling a similar point output back in November — his impact on the game in each shift was more noticeable and consistent. Stepan opened his point tally in the first period as Brad Richards scored a power play goal to tie the game at 1-1. It was a score which Stepan did well to recognize that Richards was in a great position to score and his pass to him on the slot to the goalie’s left side was on the mark.
Stepan continued his fine play in the second as he would set up Rick Nash to give the Rangers a lead which they would maintain for the remainder of the game. The Nash goal was set up thanks to the work Stepan had on the defensive zone as he was alert and collected a Senators giveaway and proceeded to take it down and set up Nash. Stepan would get his reward in the form of a goal seconds before the end of the second period as his wrist shot found its way past Craig Anderson to give the Rangers a two-goal cushion which they could defend and hang onto in the final 20 minutes.
Aside from his three-point performance on Saturday afternoon, Stepan had four shots on goal, finished with a +2 rating, and won nine of the 18 faceoffs he was dealt. As the Rangers continue a winning run which has seen them go 6-1-1 in their last eight games and 10-3-1 in their last 14, players like Nash and Benoit Pouliot have stepped up their level of play joining the likes of Mats Zuccarello as players who have carried the Rangers offensively this season. If Stepan can play more in line and with what we saw on Saturday afternoon, he will quiet the naysayers while helping the Rangers continue their winning ways.
Lucas Carreras is a contributing NHL writer for RantSports.com. Lucas is also a contributing San Francisco 49ers and Soccer writer. You can follow Lucas on Twitter by following him @maldini3fan and you can add him to your network on Google.