Stepan Stepping Up

Derek Stepan beat Braden Hotlby in game 3.

Stepan scores against the caps

Stepan scores against the caps

Last summer Derek Stepan was rumored to be part of the trade that would eventually bring  Rick Nash to Madison Square Garden. Glen Sather stood his ground and when Scott Howson blinked the Rangers had Nash and a number 1 center.

Last spring Derek Stepan was counted on to continue his quality season which saw him record 17 goals 34 assists for 51 points.

Unfortunately Stepan did not. Stepan had just 1 goal and 8 assists in 20 games last year.

Stepan’s season ended with just 13:28 of ice time in Game 6 against the Devils, the least he saw the ice in the playoffs.

The 2011 playoffs were no different. In a first round 5 game lose by the Rangers, Stepan had 0 points.

This spring looks like it could be a whole new ball game for Stepan.

Stepan started the season slow as most Rangers did. As the season went on Stepan seem to regain his game. Stepan appeared quicker and stronger than before. He has been effective in both ends of the ice, playing all over on the power play even on the point. He killed penalties and even improved his face-offs.

Stepan’s grew into a legitimate 1st line NHL center came at the right time with the apparent decline of Brad Richards in that role.

Through 4 games of the Rangers first round 2013 playoff series against the Washington Capitals Stepan has brought his A game.

In game 3  the Rangers leading scorer this past season with 18 goals 24 assists for 44 points made sure a trip to DC was necessary with a goal late in the 3rd giving the Rangers a much needed win and cut the deficit  to 2 games to 1.

Stepan goal with 6:25 remaining when he tipped in a pass in front from Rick Nash was the game winner.

“It was an interesting game,” Stepan told  Ira Podell, of The Associated Press. “The flows of it were up and down.  Early lead, they tie it. We get another one, they tie it. As a team we just  stuck together. On the bench everyone had a good feeling.”

Then in game 4 more of the same.

Stepan’s second goal of the series and  again the game-winner in the Rangers series-tying 4-3 victory Wednesday at  the Garden.

With the Rangers leading 3-2, in the third period, Stepan scored on a pretty passing play. Carl Hagelin, Ryan Callahan and all touch the puck in a tick tack toe play to beat  Braden Hotlby giving at the time the Rangers a 4-2 lead. The Caps  would cut the lead a 1:28 later but Stepan’s tally would hold up.

If the Rangers are going to go any further then  Derek Stepan is going to have to do what he did all year long pick up his team mates.

Derek Stepan is vital to the Rangers future. He might be just as valuable right now.