MATT: Derek Stepan completed his fourth NHL campaign this season, and for the fourth time, he finished in the top-four in scoring for the Rangers. That’s impressive, especially for a guy who is still just 24 years old and is so sound in his own end.
This season, Stepan finished with 57 points despite having a goal drought that reached 14 games at the start of 2014. What that says — to me at least — is that he’s far from reached his ceiling. There’s so much to like about Stepan’s game, and I hope with maturity comes consistency. He’s the Rangers’ bona fide No. 1 center — and rightfully so — and if he can avoid streaks like that, the Rangers will benefit greatly from it.
With that said, Stepan isn’t a one-dimensional forward. He’s great in his own end and on the penalty kill, something that increases his value 10 fold. There are very few top centers in this game that do as much as Stepan does in both ends of the ice, and that’s a luxury the Rangers benefit from night after night.
Stepan was a bit more consistent in the playoffs despite playing the last round and a half with a broken jaw. He posted five goals and 15 points in 24 games, easily the most productive postseason of his still young career.
JIM: Missing training camp certainly set Stepan back, especially with a new coach in place and a new system to learn, but the Minnesota native eventually found his game and finished with a career-high 57 points that included a career-best 40 assists. Twenty-one of those points came on special teams (18 on the power play, three shorthanded) where Stepan continues to be as important as any Ranger on the current roster. Still there was a nagging feeling that consistency was missing from Stepan's game much of the first half of the season, and that likely kept him from his first-ever 60+ point campaign. Stepan scored seven goals and totaled 25 points in the first half of the season and then followed with ten goals and 32 points in the second half as he once again played in all 82 games. In the playoffs it was again a bit of a mixed bag, though like the regular season Stepan excelled on the team's penalty killing unit which was a big key to the Rangers' success. Stepan had two goals and two assists--including three points in the first three games--in the Flyers series, but followed with just two assists in the Penguins series--with no points at all in the first five games. However Stepan played a big role in the Rangers Eastern Conference Final series win over the Canadiens with three goals and four assists. Stepan earned major respect from his teammates for missing only one game due to a broken jaw in that series and then returning with a two-goal outing in Game Five up in Montreal. In his first Stanley Cup Final Stepan--still playing with that broken jaw--notched a pair of assists to finish with a career-best 15 points in 24 post-season contests.