Since Chris is on his annual pilgrimage to the US of A, you’re all stuck with me for this week’s musings. I know my questions won’t be anywhere near as poignant or provocative as my colleague from across the pond, but I’m gonna give it the old college try…
After not having seen the Maple Leafs since the middle of January, I’ll admit I was expecting more of the same from Toronto. I was incorrect. That team is a pain to play against. They run an aggressive forecheck and are deadly in transition. They are going to make someone’s life very difficult in the first round. As long as their goaltending holds up…
Torts shuffled the lines around big time last night. While I really enjoy seeing the Nash-Stepan-Cally line together, I understand Tort’s thinking. The Phaneuf matchup was killing that line and Tort’s needed to give Toronto a different look. I wasn’t crazy about any of the specific lines he created, and since the Isles don’t have a shut-down number 1 d-man, I’d expect more familiar line combos come Saturday.
I know Hags hasn’t fully cemented himself as a top-6 player just yet, but even when he’s moving up and down the lineup, I think it’s a waste to play him with Boyle or Pyatt. Read more »
Quite simply all Derek Stepan needs to do is play solid at both ends and try not to conquer the world from the outset. A grounded, level headed kid Stepan was stunning in his NHL debut being in the right place and the right time to score his hat-trick, which just happened to be only the 4th hat-trick on NHL debut in the league’s long history. However, if Stepan needed any kind of cautionary tale (and his temperament and personality suggest he needs no such warning) he needs just to look at the last hat trick hero on debut, Dallas’s Fabias Brunnstrom, who went from sought after Free Agent to hot-starting rookie to being lost in the shuffle and frequent scratch in Dallas.
Stepan won’t suffer the same fate as the Swede. That’s not saying he’ll score three every game (he won’t) but the young pivot has displayed a healthy work ethic from the first moment of pre season. So why does Stepan just need to keep it simple and play hard? Several reasons. First of all his line mates will demand it. Avery, Fedotenko and Stepan formed a brilliant trio against Buffalo and Stepan will continue to benefit offensively if he plays a simple game and looks to utilise both his playmaking skills and on-ice awareness (go to the open ice) because Avery and Fedotenko work the corners so well and will continue to do the dirty work for Stepan to showcase his skills. This line has the potential for prolonged success because they complement each other so well. While Avery and Fedotenko both feature offensive flare they are primarily both hard workers and Stepan can continue to benefit from the fore checking and aggressive nature of his veteran team mates.
With the Isles badly suffering through injury including bad injuries to key players Marek Streit and Kyle Okposo as well as John Tavares hurting (likely to miss Rangers game) the Rangers are expected (and should) beat the Islanders. This game should allow Stepan, Artem Anisimov –also strong in Buffalo –and the rest of the team to continue their hot offensive play and build some momentum; anything less than a win would be a disappointment. Stepan may be a rookie but he’s a level headed one. He may very well lead the charge in tonight’s game as well. While one New York club will be lamenting their absent, hurting center in Tavares, the Rangers may well continue to celebrate their new young star center. Things are looking up.