One of the biggest "what ifs" entering the playoffs was: how good can the Rangers be if Martin St. Louis plays like the two-time Art Ross winner he is? Three games — and five points — later, and we're getting closer to answering that question.
St. Louis' struggles upon first arriving in New York — just eight points in 19 regular season games — were well documented. "He's pressing," was one common narrative, and even the former MVP himself didn't deny his struggles or that he was putting pressure on himself to find the back of the net. While the Rangers as a whole continued to excel following the acquisition of the diminutive one — posting a 12-5-2 record with St. Louis in the lineup — there was the sense that once the Blueshirts' newest acquisition became acclimated to his surroundings, he'd have a chance to raise the skill level of the team to a level it hasn't been in quite some time.
Through three playoff games, it looks like he's comfortable with his new digs.
Since the start of the second season, St. Louis has been the Rangers best player, if not the top performer in the entire series — his five points lead all combatants. In a league where puck possession rules, the former Lightning captain has had the biscuit on his stick arguably more than any other player — and when he has it, St. Louis is capable of making plays few others can even see, let alone attempt. Far from a one trick pony, the 38-year-old has also backchecked like a player half his age.
Big-time players step up in big situations, and the littlest man on the ice — a Stanley Cup Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist — is giving Rangers' fans a taste of what he's made of…after making them wait a little longer than expected.
So how good can the Blueshirts be with St. Louis firing on all cylinders? It's perhaps to soon to say for certain. But, the early returns are extremely encouraging, and rest assured, if the time comes when the Blueshirts have to face down either of the beasts of the east, they're closer to being able to trade punches with them than they were just a few months ago.
- Not surprisingly, Steve Mason, who entered game 3 late in relief of Ray Emery, will start Friday's game 4. Mason was significantly better than Emery in the regular season, but has only four very unspectacular playoff starts on his resume — starts that came in 2009 on a Columbus team led by Rick Nash.