Hot and not
Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
Stepan had a goal and two assists in the Rangers' 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. He now has four points in his past two games. He also became just the second player in team history to score at least 40 points in each of his first six NHL seasons.
Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators
Hammond took the loss in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the New York Islanders and has now lost three of his past four starts. Overall, he is only 5-9-4 on the season with a 2.72 GAA.
Have the New York Rangers turned the corner?
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Are the topsy-turvy Rangers finally turning the corner? We thought so last week after an impressive win in Anaheim, but a loss in San Jose gave you pause. Now, though, after dominant wins over the Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins -- a 5-2 win that saw five different Rangers score -- there are the same signs we saw in that win over the Ducks: solid defensive play, goalie Henrik Lundqvist at his best, and an offense with many different weapons. I loved Keith Yandle's play in setting up Derek Stepan's power-play goal that make it 2-0 against the Bruins, although I wonder where Boston's defensive coverage was there. Yandle looks so much more comfortable in a Rangers uniform now than when he came over from the Arizona Coyotes at the 2015 trade deadline. Stepan, by the way, showed great patience in the third period when setting up J.T. Miller beside the net. Game, set and match on that one. Maybe the Rangers were keeping their best for the end of the season? Their fans certainly hope so.
@ESPN_Burnside: Pierre, it's interesting you mentioned Yandle, who was a player everyone expected would be wearing a different jersey at this point of the season given that he's set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. But with injuries to captain Ryan McDonagh and uneven play by some of the veteran Rangers blue-liners, management decided at the trade deadline their best course of action was to keep Yandle in the fold. Sometimes it's the trades you don't make that pay the greatest dividends, and even though the Rangers paid handsomely for Yandle (some would say they overpaid), a long playoff run this spring will make most folks forget the assets that went out. It has become clear in recent weeks that Yandle -- tied for third on the team in scoring with 42 points, and whose two-assist effort Wednesday ended a four-game pointless streak -- is a key component of a team that is starting to look more and more like the Stanley Cup contender it had been expected to be.
@CraigCustance: And how about Miller, Pierre? There was a little bit of surprise that he was named in the first wave of Team North America players for the World Cup, but Miller continues to justify the selection by becoming an important player up front for the Rangers. His goal against the Bruins gives him his first 20-goal season, and he'll be a key secondary offensive producer for New York in the playoffs. I touched on this Tuesday, but the key for the Rangers will be getting Rick Nash and Eric Staal going at peak level in order to be in the same class as the Washington Capitals this spring. Nash now has goals in consecutive games, and even though his goal on Wednesday was an empty netter, it was a fantastic effort when he blew past David Krejci to get to the puck and then scored on a tough angle. He's trending the right way and that's a really good sign for the Rangers.
@ESPNJoeyMac: The Rangers are playing some inspired hockey right now. New York appears to be hitting its stride at the right time with only eight games remaining. On Wednesday, beating Boston was a key win for the Rangers and Yandle talked afterward about how much confidence the team is playing with right now. On a personal level, he has played well of late, and his two primary assists against the Bruins were high-caliber plays. As a pending UFA, he would like to remain in New York and the Rangers would like to keep him, but the team's salary-cap issues could prevent that. In the meantime, the Rangers have a team that can create a deep run this postseason. I picked them to come out of the Eastern Conference in our preseason poll, but I'm not ready to anoint them Eastern Conference champs just yet.
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