A day after game five’s loss in the Eastern Conference Finals, it has been a hard pill to swallow, as a Rangers fan. Immediate reaction to last night’s performance was anger and fear. Anger over losing to the Montreal Canadiens. Fear that doubts may have crept into the Rangers’ heads. However, if we could take anything good out of last night, it would be the performance of Derek Stepan. After being questionable to play in game five, he “stepped” up and did his best to help the Rangers comeback, after being down in the second period. An overlooked performance, Derek Stepan gave reason for optimism heading into game six tomorrow night.
Derek Stepan has played an important role for the Rangers these playoffs. Through eighteen playoff games this season, he has 13 points (five goals, eight assists), good for second on the team in points behind Martin St. Louis. In this series against the Montreal Canadiens, he has registered a point in every game. Last night, he tallied two goals: his first being a wrist shot on goal near the blue line, and the second being an opportunistic play, where the puck was loose in front of Montreal’s net. After bouncing around, Derek Stepan was able to get in the action and buried the loose puck past Dustin Tokarski. He accounted for half of the Rangers goals last night. They weren’t pretty, but it didn’t have to be when you play desperate.
Last night, he wore similar head gear as Anahiem Ducks’ forward Ryan Getzlaf did after being struck in the mouth by a puck against the Los Angeles Kings. Just like Getzlaf, he was able to come back for the next game and help the team rally from a three goal deficit. He didn’t play scared and was able to contribute, despite the loss.
In the past, I’ve questioned his ability to play as the number one center. After last night’s performance and courage to play through injury, he made me regret I ever doubted him.