The new kid on the block looks right at home.
Derek Stepan beat last year’s Vezina winning top goaltender Ryan Miller three times in his NHL debut as the Rangers won 6-3. (And his mom was in the house, beaming of course. His father, Brad Stepan was drafted by the Rangers in 1985.)
The 2008 second-round draft pick (that’s right, second round, 51st overall) scored once in the first period on a monster shot from afar that bounced off a Sabres’ defenseman and twice in the second. He almost had a fourth on a breakaway in the third period and had a close call off an empty net attempt that rang off the post.
Stepan was constantly in the right place at the right time, positioning himself in front of the net for deflections, tip ins and rebound opportunities. “A little puck luck and a little team chemistry,” he said in the post-game explaining his opening night success.
You gotta love the modesty. He clicked with Avery and Fedotenko on the third line. Drury’s broken finger seems like a blessing in disguise because it gave a prospect a quicker chance to shine (the veteran saw most of his time on the third line last season).
Stepan is the first Rangers’ rookie since Ron Murphy in 1955 to score a hat trick in his debut. He’s also probably the first Rangers’ rookie to be a top trending Twitter topic too.
If his resume is any indication, he’s growing at a rapid rate with a boat load of potential to tap into.
The Wisconsin Badger had 54 points in 41 games his sophomore season last year as he led the Badgers all the way to the NCAA finals (which they lost to Boston College) and captained USA’s World Junior Championship team to the gold medal.
Bottom line: He’s got the skills to pay the bills with a calm, cool and collected demeanor. But the question is, when will he peak? Can he handle the bright lights, big city and bring his A-game every night? He’s made it this far and Ranger fans will be welcoming him with open arms come Friday night when the boys are back in town to ring in the season in NYC.
During the third period, MSG aired a clip of Michael Del Zotto and Brian Boyle singing and laughing their way through their favorite TV theme song: Go go Power Rangers. I’ll be on the Youtube lookout.
Love is in the air
Brandon Dubinsky showed Stepan some love with a smooch on the visor after his third goal. MSG broadcaster John Gianone didn’t let that go by unnoticed. Awkward.
Dubinsky had a great night with two goals while D-man Dan Girardi had two assists. Gaborik made a sweet pass behind the net to Erik Christensen to slip the fifth goal past Miller.
About the Author
Written by Margaret DeJesus
I'm a recent college graduate looking for a dream job covering hockey. I've been watching the New York Rangers since my grade school days of VHS and Gordon Bombay's "ducks fly together" speech. While studying journalism at Boston University (COM '10), I wrote for the Daily Free Press, the student newspaper. I worked two summers at the Staten Island Advance, my hometown newspaper, writing city news and features. I've also written CD reviews for Music-Reviewer.com. One of my favorite gigs was interning for hockey analyst extraordinaire Stan Fischler covering the Boston Bruins and attending all their home games in the 2009-2010 season. (Yes, including the crushing defeat against the Flyers in the Eastern Conference playoffs.)