Derick Brassard and the Rangers know they need to stay out of the penalty box vs. Lightning.
TAMPA – Every Ranger wants to win more than anything, but center Derick Brassard’s passion for the playoffs is particularly refreshing.
His heightened emotion and urgency are on display every shift. He speaks colorfully and excitedly about the intensity of the games. And he celebrates every goal like it’s the first he’s ever scored.
Brassard’s most recent entertaining highlight occurred as the second intermission of Game 2 arrived at the Garden on Monday night. There was a sudden commotion at the entrance of the Rangers’ hallway to their home locker room, and it turned out Brassard had walked off the ice carrying Steven Stamkos’ stick.
The Lightning captain wanted it back.
“Yeah, he told me after if I wanted his stick I just had to ask him,” Brassard said with a smile Wednesday morning before Game 3. “I was on the bench and I guess he couldn’t pick up his stick there, and when the period was over he kind of skated the other way, and it was in my way so I just took it.
“I just took one step and (Stamkos) was at the door,” Brassard added. “I just turned around and gave it to him. It was not a big deal at all … It was like, ‘Oh, he doesn’t want the stick. I’ll just pick it up.’ It was on our way, he came back and he was like, “Hey I need my stick.”
Brassard, 27, often seems to be in the middle of the most interesting moments.
In the second round against Washington, the News reported that Brassard had been stopped in his car by a New York City police officer outside the Garden prior to Game 2. The officer reminded Brassard to get a license plate on the front of his new car, let him go, and added “Just make sure you win today.”
Brassard responded by scoring the game-winning goal in a 3-2 Rangers afternoon win.
In Monday night’s 6-2 blowout loss to Tampa, however, Brassard was one of the primary culprits in the Blueshirts’ march to the penalty box, along with Chris Kreider (one penalty) and Derek Stepan (two).
The French Canadian may have had some fun swiping Stamkos’ stick, but he didn’t control his own stick as well. Brassard committed two high-stick penalties on Lighting forwards Valtteri Filppula in the first period and Nikita Kucherov in the third, with the second infraction resulting in a Stamkos power play goal.
“We have to be careful,” Brassard said. “My two penalties were high-sticking penalties, and I wasn’t like, ‘I’m gonna get him in the face.’ It just happened. There’s always different refs every game. Some let everything go, and last game they just decided to call penalties, and they were all penalties. We just have to deal with it and play hard and make sure our sticks aren’t high … Everyone here that took penalties, we’re not doing it to hurt the team.”
Avoiding costly penalties, though, is a simple correction. It would be a greater and more significant feat for Brassard, who had five goals in the Rangers’ first nine playoff games, to now get linemate Rick Nash rolling.
He doesn’t want to force a play to Nash, since he has a strong shot of his own, but Brassard is aware of the responsibility he has to try and get the team’s regular season goal scorer more touches.
Nash entered Game 3 with just two goals in 14 playoff games after rattling off a career-high 42 in the regular season.
“Game 1 I had a two on one with him, and I didn’t feel confident with the defender and the backchecker – the guy was back-checking coming in – sometimes in those situations I’m going to try to give it to him and try to get him involved as much as I can,” Brassard said. “That’s something that maybe I can do a little better, try to get him more involved in the offensive zone, try to find him a little bit more.
“But you know,” Brassard continued, “early on in the playoffs, I was confident scoring goals and I still am, it’s just I was looking to get the shot first mentality. But if the chance is there obviously I want to get him more involved in the offensive zone or in between the blue lines, get his speed and get him going. But he’s working hard. It’s just a matter of time.”
It is a lot of responsibility to bear, but it is the price of being a top center, and that’s why it’s important Brassard has fun with all of this, like when he stole Stamkos’ stick and played coy on Wednesday that it was “not a big deal.”
Stamkos had a response.
“I mean, I have an idea (Brassard) knew it was my stick,” Stamkos said Wednesday morning. “He kind of played it off that he didn’t know. … Maybe he put a goal in there for me, I don’t know. It ended up working out, so I’ll take it.”
Those are fightin’ words. Good thing Brassard likes a good fight.
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