As great as the New York Rangers have played recently, they are still not without flaws. One of those flaws is the play this season of Derek Stepan.
Last season, Stepan emerged as the Rangers’ No. 1 center, on his way to fulfilling his potential. This season has been a much different story, however. It took him until mid-January to have the type of game we grew accustomed to seeing last season.
Stepan notched three points against the Ottawa Senators yesterday. He scored a back-breaking goal late in the second period, and a few minutes earlier, he made a nifty bank-shot pass off the boards to Rick Nash, leading to the goal that broke a 1-1 tie.
The Rangers had better hope they see more games like this, and more frequently. As great as his performance was yesterday, Stepan playing well consistently remains one of the biggest holes in the Rangers’ game. If he fails to establish consistent elite play, then it will simply create more questions for the Rangers’ chances going forward.
What impeded Stepan from playing great following his training camp holdout? The Olympics? The pressure of living up to his new contract? Or is he simply not as good as last season’s number suggest?
Whatever the case may be, Stepan certainly proved he is capable of being that brilliant player again in Saturday’s game. We’ll see if it continues in Sunday night’s game against the Washington Capitals.
If Stepan is truly back, then the dangerous New York Rangers just became more dangerous.