Rangers Rookie Stepan Studly In Debut

If the season was only one night then I suppose you could crown the Rangers champions today after last night’s 6 – 3 thrashing of the Buffalo Sabres in the Sabres home opener. Of course last night was just game 1 of 82 so there is a lot of hockey left to be played before awarding the Rangers anything.

How impressive was Derek Stepan last night? The 20 year-old rookie became just the 4th NHL’er to record a hat trick in his NHL debut. The last to do it was the Stars’ Fabian Brunnstrom. But I must point out Brunnstrom had a year of professional hockey in the Swedish Elite League under his belt before making his NHL debut. Stepan is fresh off completing his sophomore season at the University of Wisconsin.

Every Ranger fan was excited about Stepan and what he brings to the table but none of us thought he would score 3 in his first game. We also don’t expect him to do that every game either. He’s a rookie; there will be peaks and valleys in his production this season. But at least Stepan got the goal scoring monkey off his back early. He won’t have to worry about getting his first NHL goal.

Stepan’s play was far from the only highlight in the Rangers season opening win. Brandon Dubinsky netted 2 goals, the second into an empty net. Erik Christensen scored a goal off a nice feed from Marian Gaborik who was in behind the net. For one night Ranger fans won’t have to worry about secondary scoring.

The defense was a little shaky. Steve Eminger took a couple of minor penalties and found himself out of position a few other times. Rozsival looked like a turnstile at times. Lundqvist was good but probably wishes he had the second goal back.

Buffalo got 2 tallies and an assist from defenseman Jordan Leopold who was making his Sabres debut. Derek Roy recorded the 3rd Sabres goal and now has 3 in 2 games this season. Quick question; Roy has 3 goals in 2 games while Stepan has 3 in 1. Does that mean Stepan is twice as good as Roy? I’m just asking.

Let’s talk a little more about Stepan. The first goal was a fluke. Dan Girardi wristed a shot from the right point which deflected off Stepan’s skate and then banked off of Sabres defender Tyler Myers’ foot and into the net.

Stepan’s second was a rebound of a Marc Staal shot that the rookie cashed in from in tight. Miller made the stop on Staal’s shot and kicked the puck out to the left post where Stepan got in behind the defense and elevated the puck over Miller’s pad.

To complete the hat trick, Stepan cashed in a great feed from Sean Avery from behind the goal line. Of course Stepan’s success was due in part to Buffalo’s weak coverage in front of their own net. Linemates Sean Avery and Ruslan Fedotenko also played an important role. They were working the corners hard and pressuring the Sabres defense. Avery was credited with 2 assists while Feds was held off the score sheet. Nonetheless, for this game at least, the line showed great chemistry.

Ready for some controversy? I have the NHL Center Ice package so I can catch every Rangers game. As such I usually pick up the MSG feed with Sam Rosen and Joe Michelletti. I love Rosen. He’s as neutral as can be for a guy who draws a check from the team whose games he is calling. He calls it like he sees it with little apparent bias.

Last night I got the Sabres feed. Rick Jeanerret and Harry Neale do Sabres games for MSG. Jeanneret is the same guy whose call of a Sabres goal sounds as if he is mimicking the guy who does soccer. I get that the there is going to be some home team bias and that’s understandable. However they need to maintain some professional decorum.

Maybe I was just being sensitive which I can get when watching my team. But the homerism displayed by Jeanneret and Neale was over the top. Toward the end of period 1, they were complaining the Rangers were running Miller. This was after AA was tripped on a breakaway and a penalty was called against the Sabres defender. That fact was completely ignored despite the numerous replays. They stuck to their statement the Rangers were intentionally contacting Miller with no influence from Sabres players.

On the first goal it was mistakenly thought Avery’s skate may have been the last one the puck hit. When it was shown it was actually Myers’ the announcers cracked on Avery for “trying to take credit for the goal.” Their rationale was that Avery jumped too high celebrating the goal. Excessive celebration equals Avery trying to take credit for the goal, huh? A little bit of a jump when the puck went in doesn’t qualify as too much celebration. If he had skated end-to-end fist pumping all the way then that might qualify.

Avery also pointed at Dan Girardi since it was the Rangers defenseman who released the wrister that eventually went into the net. I realize that Avery is a target of other teams fans, players and now apparently their announcers. He’s done it to himself with his antics. But come on guys, really? What until he does something that warrants you cracking on him. Until then let him be.

Alright, I’m done venting. I should be happy after all. We are 1 – 0 and it may well be the last time we are undefeated and tied for 1st in the Eastern Conference. Derek Stepan is on pace for a 246 goal season and a new NHL record. Sean Avery and Dan Girardi right now are looking at 162 point seasons. It doesn’t get much better for a Rangers fan than it is right now.


George Prax's picture

I've always defended Avery when he deserved it. And it seems like this is one of those cases. Jeanerret is notoriously a homer, and while I haven't seen many Sabres broadcasts lately I always hated Neale when he was on Hockey Night In Canada, so I can definitely see where you're coming from. I guess it's a matter of satisfying the fanbase, and we all know about the Sabres fanbase Wink

But really, great to hear about Stepan.

Glen Miller's picture

I'm sure most fans complain about the announce teams of their rivals. And a lot of the negative attention Avery gets is a result of his past actions. I do really feel we have one of the best play by play guys in all of sports in Sam Rosen. When he was paired with JD there was no doubt we had the best hockey coverage anywhere.

Anyway, it was my first chance to see Stepan in person and I was very impressed. THe kid has goal scoring ability. We were led to believe he was more of a playmaker so I was surprised. I am very excited to see what kind of team we could have if Kreider, McD, McI and Grachev all develop along with a couple other kids. In 3 years we might be damn good.