Derick Brassard gets the push he needs for playoff success

Derick Brassard gets the push he needs for playoff success

TAMPA – Derick Brassard should have seen the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a rookie.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made the playoffs for the first time in 2009, but Brassard was in street clothes. He fought James Neal earlier in the season and ended up separating his shoulder.

The surgery it required ended his season after 31 games.

As a result, Brassard played 322 NHL games before his first shift in the playoffs with the New York Rangers in 2013.

“I played four years in the league before I got my first taste of the playoffs,” he said, “and I think I really enjoy playing at this time.”

Brassard has 40 points in 53 playoff games with the Rangers, including a team-leading nine goals and 16 points in 18 games this postseason. Granted, that was inflated with an epic five-point night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, pushing their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning to seven games.

“We just made plays. Hungry on the puck. Supporting each other. We just played. It’s just what this team does in elimination games,” said Brassard.

He and his linemates, Rick Nash and J.T. Miller, combined for 13 points in the game.

“We know against a skill team like that if you take a step back they’re going to get their offensive chances,” said Nash. “Not sitting back. Trusting our game.”

Trust hasn’t been an issue for Rangers coach Alain Vigneault when it comes to Brassard and Nash. They were linemates for the entirety of the regular season, and though the playoffs, even when Nash couldn’t locate the back of the net with a GPS.

That’s despite losing their regular winger, Mats Zuccarello, to injury in the first round after five games. Brassard and Nash were the constants, with a revolving door of wingers.

Next up was Marty St. Louis for seven games against the Washington Capitals.

Vigneault changed up his lines for the Eastern Conference Final, starting Brassard and Nash with Kevin Hayes for the first three games and then flipping Hayes for Miller in Game 4.

“The way J.T. has played the last two weeks, his attitude, really energized our line. And Rick … Rick was a beast tonight,” said Brassard.

So was Brassard, and it’s a direct result of that trust Vigneault has for his center. The coach challenged Brassard and Derek Stepan in a pregame meeting between the three players.

“What started as a challenge, it was more like this is the reality, and this is what we need you guys to do.  And they're both very professional,” said Vigneault.

Brassard answered the challenge emphatically.

“Seemed like he was possessed right from the start of the game.  You could tell he was around the puck, he was fore-checking, and he was finding himself open a lot off the back door. He's working for his opportunities,” said Nash, who played with Brassard in Columbus.

“Since he's come to New York, he's really turned into a premier center.”

Like he does with pucks on the ice, Brassard passes the praise to his teammates, even when he tallies five points.

“It was just like one of those nights. I was in the right place at the right time. My teammates gave me some really good plays,” he said.

“I'm just going to try to bring it in Game 7.”