Hats off to Derek Stepan, a New York good guy

Derek Stepan and the Blueshirts win 3-1 against the Devils.  Photo courtesy of MSG.
Derek Stepan’s star has been on the rise and his hard work was rewarded with a hat trick in a 3-1 win against the Devils, Saturday night. How has he fared since his Eastern Conference injury, loss in the Final and his absence at the start of Rangers season? So far, very well.

It was the hit heard from the Garden in New York and the Bell Centre in Montreal.  Brandon Prust, former New York Ranger, now Montreal Canadien, shoulder checked Ranger forward and good guy Derek Stepan onto the ice.  Seeking possible retribution from Chris Kreider’s run-in on goaltender Carey Price, ole Prusty sent Step off the ice and out a game to get his surgery on his broken jaw.
Prust was suspended for 3 games and would be able to return for game 6 if Montreal could stay alive. Step was back in Game 5, jaw wired shut, back in the Bell Centre and up 3-to-1 in the series.  What do you do?  What do you do?

Stepan returns to the Eastern Conference Finals Game 5.  Courtesy of MSG.

Derek Stepan (with a protective face guard) scored, not one, but two goals on Montreal.  The injured hero fights back!  However, the Rangers did lose that game and went back to the city to reclaim their victory as Eastern Conference Champions.  Stepan became a hero of New York City.

The New York Rangers win the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals.

At the end of the season, people were excited about the new energy the Rangers were bringing to the city, all eyes were on the new stars of the team, Marty St. Louis and Ryan McDonagh including Derek Stepan, who was named one of the four Alternate Captains alongside St. Louis, Mark Staal and Dan Girardi.
But a pre-season injury sidelined the star centerman and hurt the teams energy.  McDonagh was without his best friend when starting as Captain and the team’s abilities seemed to suffer along with it.
Rumors of Step’s return began circulating while our team seemed to be faltering.  When is Step coming back? Days?  Weeks?  When Stepan finally did, his best bud Mac Truck was instantly sidelined by Winnipeg Jet, Evander Kane with a separated shoulder.

Stepan returns to the team in Toronto.  Courtesy of MSG.

Derek Stepan returned and was ready to lift the team in spite of all the issues and injuries. He assisted on goal in his first game back in a November 8th game in Toronto, and registered two assists in his third game back at home against Pittsburgh.  The shutout proved effective on the teams energy and snapped them out of a losing streak for a bit.  However, since Step’s return to the lineup it’s been only looking better for the team.
Stepan is taking physical risks as well

During McDonagh’s absence, the protection of the remaining Rangers’ defenseman were as important in Stepan’s fifth game back against evil arch rivals Pittsburgh Penguins in western PA.

A tough loss against the Penguins.  Courtesy of MSG.

It was a tense game, people got banged up and things continued to stay chippy. The weekend was almost ruined, when Evgeni Malkin knocked out the second-to-last line of defense Dan Girardi. Fortunately he returned but the Rangers would lose a wild shootout in which they thought they won but didn’t.
However, Derek Stepan was one of the first to check Malkin in a scrum of eight men between both teams. Showing that he is willing to stand up for his teammates.  The team was alive again!  That fire, that energy that burned during the playoffs, months before, was flickering once again.
McDonagh and Stepan reunite and NY starts to roll
It was still bumpy until McDonagh’s return and the two best friends from a cold Minnesota childhood were paired once again on different sides of the blue line.  Since McDonagh’s return on November 28th against the Flyers, the team has only had two losses that not even mumps could stop their momentum.
Eight straight wins and the alternate Captain Derek Stepan, hero of New York City has found himself with a hat trick.  He’s on his way to better things and hopefully a Stanley Cup in the near future.
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