Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 04/28/12 at 12:01 PM ET
from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,
No one is comparing Derek Stepan with Trottier, but from the first moment of Stepan’s first day of his first training camp in September 2010, there was an inescapable sense of security, maturity and poise beyond his years within the 20-year-old out of the University of Wisconsin that was similar to Trottier’s right from the start.
For two seasons, Stepan handled pretty much everything thrown at him. Except for the playoffs. A year ago, scoreless in five games against Washington, moved out of the middle onto the wing for the final three matches after getting a fair share of time during his rookie season as a first-line pivot. This year, scoreless in his first five games against Ottawa, demoted to the fourth line for Game 3 after spending his entire sophomore season as a top-six forward.
But then, toward the end of the Game 5 defeat, it started to click. And then in Game 6, it clicked in. It clicked in with a goal — the first goal; the tying goal; the goal that was essential for his team — and two assists. And then in Game 7, it clicked again, Stepan threading a right wing pass between defenseman Sergei Gonchar’s skates to set up Marc Staal in front for the first goal; Stepan on the ice for 8:37 of the third and 3:14 of the final 7:09 with the Rangers protecting a one-goal lead amidst bedlam at the Garden.
“He willed himself,” is what coach John Tortorella said about the growth spurt that took place within a week. “It was weighing on him, but he found a way.”
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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