The New York Rangers have won their last two games and have taken points in four of six total contests since the Olympic hockey break. While their two losses were blowouts to rival teams in the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins, the Rangers have bounced back and look poised to play well through the stretch toward the postseason. A huge part of that has been the play of Derek Stepan.
Stepan has been a whipping boy of Rangers fans this season and rightfully so, to a point. He has had a very hot and cold season and had only produced when his linemate Rick Nash was putting pucks in the back of the net. All of that has changed now and fans can no longer point to Stepan as one of the team’s shortcomings. Stepan has points in every single game since the Olympic break ended, totaling one goal and eight assists in those six games. He is on pace for 56 points this season, but will surely top that total if he keeps this level of play up. He is making fans reminisce of his production last season, where he went nearly a point per game.
The fact of the matter is that fans have to attribute this production to his play instead of being a leech off of other players. Nash has only two goals and four points since the break ended while Chris Kreider has three goals and an assist, including two goals against the Detroit Red Wings today. One of those goals was a 2-on-1 where Stepan set him up beautifully for an easy shot on an open net while goaltender Jimmy Howard was put out of position.
Stepan is starting to look like the player he was last year. That player elevated the overall level of play of his linemates and was a force to be reckoned with. If the Rangers can continue to get good production and creativity from Stepan, then New York will have no issues leading toward the postseason. Stepan is part of a balanced attack where any line can score. If Stepan can elevate the play of linemates Nash and Kreider, the Rangers will be a team to watch out for come the Stanley Cup playoffs.