by Patrick Hoffman on 04/02/13 at 10:00 AM ET
After attending last night's New York Rangers vs. Winnipeg Jets' NHL game at Madison Square Garden, it is easy to see who the real catalysts are for this Rangers' hockey club in terms of playing the game the right way.
Believe it or not, I am not talking about players such as Rick Nash (he has been great this season), Brad Richards or Marian Gaborik. While Nash is the only player that has really stepped up unlike Richards and Gaborik, even he is not doing what the players I am about to talk about are doing.
These Blueshirts are team captain Ryan Callahan and his linemate Derek Stepan. At 28 and 22 years old, respectively, these two players represent all that is right with the club as well as being a big part of the core of the franchise moving forward.
Callahan has always been an exemplary Ranger. He hustles, he blocks shots, he plays the body, he goes hard to the net and this season, has shown that he has soft hands.
Against the Jets last night, Callahan picked up a beautiful shorthanded goal and added three assists for a four-point night. On the season, Callahan now has 10 goals and nine assists for 19 points, good for third on the club.
After being shutout for 127 straight minutes, Stepan came out tonight and snapped that goalless streak with a bang. Stepan ended up scoring his 11th goal of the season off a great feed from Callahan and on the play, used his terrific skating ability and quick hands to beat Jets' netminder Ondrej Pavelec.
Going into the period tied knotted up at two, Stepan snapped the tie by scoring off an Anton Stralman rebound for his 12th goal of the season. With the goal, Stepan is now second on the team not only in goals scored (12) but also in points (27 points).
Offensively, Stepan has been one of the club's most consistent players this season. Stepan has had success playing with the likes of Callahan, Nash, and Carl Hagelin and has also been a key contributor on the power play this season with three markers.
For the Rangers to have success going forward in the rest of the regular season, the club will need Callahan and Stepan to keep up their steady play. Right now, the two are leading by example and tonight, they led the team to an important victory as it keeps them in the eighth spot in the extremely competitive Eastern Conference standings.
With Callahan and Stepan leading the way, the Rangers, more often than not, will play the way they need to in order to win hockey games and right now, that is the name of the game for the Broadway Blueshirts.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.