Finding Offense Without Stepan
Stepan is a player that has terrific vision, knows how to produce on a consistent basis, and is someone that can make any offensive line a threat. Flanked by Chris Kreider and Rick Nash both in the regular season and playoffs this year, Stepan made both players better and made their line an offensive threat on a nightly basis.
Unfortunately for both the Blueshirts and Stepan, the Rangers' 23-year-old forward is out indefinitely with a broken jaw. While no one knew it at the time, Stepan got the broken jaw off the dangerous hit from Montreal Canadiens' forward Brandon Prust in his team's 3-2 overtime loss in Game 3 on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
With Stepan gone for the foreseeable future, it is clear that the team's offense is going to need to find a way to step up their game. Stepan is second on the team in scoring in the playoffs (three goals and eight assists for 11 points) so with him out of the lineup, other players are going to have to either continue to contribute offensively or start putting points up on the board.
For starters, Derick Brassard is one player that is going to have to continue to play well when he returns to the lineup for tomorrow night's Game 4. Brassard, who was injured back in Game 1, currently has seven points (four goals and three assists) and while that is solid, he will need to start doing a lot more.
Brassard has been too hot and cold in these playoffs this year. Yes, he has four points in his last five games, but those all those points came in two games, which means he needs to be more consistent offensively.
Benoit Pouliot is another player that needs to add more offensive juice to his game. Pouliot, who has eight points (three goals and five assists) is a player that has a lot of offensive talent, but he does not use it to his advantage all of the time.
To be effective, Pouliot needs to play big, handle the puck, and put himself in good position in front of the net for deflections, rebounds, and scoring chances in general. He also needs to make sure that he stays out of the box as he has been known to take careless penalties this postseason.
Brian Boyle needs to try and make more of an offensive impact with Stepan out of the lineup. With his size, it is a surprise that he does not use it well in front of the opponents' to deflect pucks, be there for rebounds and put the puck in the net.
He will need to do that while Stepan is out of the lineup. Stepan is the team's best offensive center and with him not in the lineup, Boyle will need to raise his offensive game.
One player that has the potential to really raise his game with Stepan out of the lineup is Dominic Moore. Moore, who has six points (two goals and four assists), has been one of the team's unsung heroes this postseason and now with Stepan gone, is going to need to find another level to raise to.
Moore has the offensive skills to do exactly that. He has speed, a good wrist shot, a nose for the net, and is someone who is not afraid to forecheck until he comes away with the puck.
While there is no doubt that loss of Stepan is a big one, the Rangers have players that can step up and do what they need to do to contribute offensively while Stepan is out.