In 2009 as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, forward Derick Brassard was unable to suit up for his team and make his postseason debut when Columbus took on the Detroit Red Wings.
Four years later, Brassard, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Columbus, will finally get his first taste of playoff hockey Thursday night with the Rangers.
“I’m really excited,” Brassard said this week as the Blueshirts prepared for Game 1 of their opening round matchup against the Washington Capitals. “I’ve been in the league for five years and it’s going to be my first playoff games. I’m just looking forward to playing. It’s going to be intense.”
During the 2008-09 season, Brassard stormed out of the gate posting 25 points in just 31 games before a shoulder injury suffered in a game against the Dallas Stars in December derailed his season. The injury required surgery, which would prevent him from rejoining the team the rest of the season.
The Blue Jackets were swept by the Red Wings.
Brassard, 25, said he’s watched the playoffs every summer with friends, but is now looking forward to taking part in them as a player.
He said the 13 games he’s played as a Ranger have been the most meaningful of his NHL career, and he expects that preparation will help him once the postseason begins. In those games, Brassard has notched 11 points, including five goals. He closed out his season with goals in two of the last three games.
“It’s been a lot of fun over the past few weeks to play some games that actually mean a lot,” he said. “The atmosphere was awesome, and it’s not going to be any different in the playoffs. It’s going to be hard games. I’m just going to try and bring the game I had the past three weeks and try and help the team.”
Rangers head coach John Tortorella said the inexperience of playing in the playoffs could be beneficial for players like Brassard and defenseman John Moore — who will also make his playoff debut this season — because they won’t over-think the game.
“They just don’t understand some of the things that go on [in playoff games],” Tortorella said after practice on Tuesday. “The momentum swings, just the different types of pressures of an individual play in the game. That’s not in their head … in certain situations and for certain people, not having a clue of what’s going on is good.”
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who has 20 playoff games under his belt after last season’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals, said he’s talked to Brassard and Moore about it, and that the team has a solid group of veteran players for younger guys to lean on.
“Obviously you look at some of the veteran leadership we have in here, and I’m sure they’ll step up and talk to them,” he said. “They’re both great players and I know they’re both excited. We’re just ready to start.”
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