Rangers Vs. Capitals: The Importance Of Derek Stepan

After a long delay the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals will finally play Game One tonight.

The New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals kick off Game One of their first round series tonight in Washington.

John Tortorella talked about how the Rangers are "chomping at the bit" to finally play in their first playoff game of the year. The Rangers are obviously looking to get off to a hot start, and since they're starting the series in Washington it would be a great way for the Rangers to take back home ice advantage in the series.

The Rangers are in the process of trying to get themselves healthy. Ryane Clowe, Marc Staal and Derek Dorsett are all in the process of getting healthy enough to play for the Rangers in this opening round series. The Rangers can use them all.

But as it stands the Rangers have a solid group of guys who can make a difference without the injured players on the ice. One of the biggest player the Rangers are going to rely on in the playoffs? Derek Stepan.

Stepan was the Rangers leader in points (44), was second on the team in goals (18 -- Rick Nash had 21) and second on the team in power play goals (four -- Ryan Callahan had six). He averaged 20:55 a game (second behind Callahan) and Tortorella recently gushed that he could use Stepan in any situation at any time.

Quite the jump from his first two years in the NHL. Not that those first two years were bad -- they were actually quite good -- he just crushed all expectations this year. He took the leap he needed to take and the Rangers are thrilled he's doing it. He was -- without a doubt -- the most consistent offensive player for the Rangers this year.

He helps in all three zones (his defense is really underrated) and he's been a huge asset on special teams as well.

Stepan is going to be a big part of the Rangers series against Washington. Nash is going to be expected to help eliminate the effects of Alexander Ovechkin. Stepan is going to be a part of the Rangers constant battle to have their secondary scoring be better than the Capitals secondary scoring. He's also going to be a big part of trying to get some consistency out of the power play.

And since the Rangers first two games are going to be in Washington, Stepan is going to be going up against some tough competition. He hasn't had much of an issue with that this year, but everything is magnified in the playoffs.

The Rangers have leaned on Stepan this year. That won't change in the playoffs.

His production shouldn't either.