NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: Derek Stepan #21 of the New York Rangers celebrates a second period goal by teammate Marc Staal #18 in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final against the New Jersey Devils during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 16, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Stepan on Eastern Conference finals: “I don’t think I was as sharp as I could’ve been”

21-year-old Derek Stepan has appeared in back-to-back playoffs and already has 25 postseason contests on his resume.

That said, he can’t be happy with how he’s played.

The Rangers forward went scoreless in last year’s playoffs and struggled again this year, scoring just one goal in 20 games. That included a no-goal, one-assist, minus-2 performance in six games against the Devils, something he clearly wasn’t happy with.

“I don’t think I was as sharp as I could’ve been in the conference finals,” he said during New York’s end-of-season media session. “I don’t know what it had to do with.”

Stepan has been a solid regular season contributor for the Rangers since breaking into the league, scoring 45 points as a rookie, 51 as a sophomore (finishing fourth on the team.) While young players often experience a dropoff in production come playoff time, the significance of Stepan’s disappearing act was heightened by the fact New York desperately needed him on board offensively.

While others also failed to show up (Marian Gaborik, Carl Hagelin,), the Rangers really needed more production down the middle after Brad Richards. Centers Brian Boyle and John Mitchell were mostly out there in a defensive/checking role, so the responsibility fell to Stepan.

It might seem harsh putting goat horns on a kid two years removed from the University of Wisconsin, but that’s the way the Rangers are built.

Devan Dubnyk pushes shutout streak to two games

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild defends the net against Winnipeg Jets during the game on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Devan Dubnyk already showed signs of having a hot start to 2016-17, but Thursday made that point abundantly clear.

For the second straight game, Dubnyk generated a shutout, with the Minnesota Wild beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-0 in this instance.

It’s not as if Dubnyk is just leisurely turning aside the occasional chance, either; he made 38 saves to blank Buffalo and needed to stop 65 shots on goal considering the 27 he turned aside in a 5-0 win vs. Boston.

Ryan Suter said that Dubnyk bailed his teammates out during the second period, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo reports.

He’s now allowed just 10 goals in six games so far in 2016-17, with Taylor Hall‘s overtime-winner being the last shot to beat him. That came on Sunday:

More often than not, Dubnyk’s been making those saves so far in this young season.

Video: Another way Patrik Laine evokes Alex Ovechkin

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There are plenty of differences between Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, including obvious things like one being from Russia and the other from Finland.

Still, there are moments when Laine inspires comparisons to his idol, even this early in his rookie season.

Thursday presented one of those moments. It wasn’t just that Laine fired a 3-0 goal home for the Winnipeg Jets against the Dallas Stars with such moxie; it was also that he showed some swagger with a celebration afterward.

This GIF captures the moment brilliantly, while you can also watch the goal in video form.

Sure, there will be some grumbles from the “act like you’ve been here before” crowd, but this is brilliant stuff for the rest of us.

Video: Want another booming hip check? Sean Couturier obliges

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 25:  Sean Couturier #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Buffalo Sabres at Wells Fargo Center on October 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Early this season, Dmitry Orlov delighted onlookers and angered Matt Duchene with a mind-blowing, throwback hip check. People really seemed to enjoy it.

While you’d struggle to top that hit, Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean¬†Couturier must have sensed the void in checks that almost seem to flip opponents, doing so against Anthony Duclair during Thursday’s contest.

Rate this as you will:

Want another look at the Orlov one for comparison’s sake or to chuckle in disbelief? Why not:

Uh oh, Nikita Kucherov might be hurt

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As much as this Tampa Bay Lightning – Montreal Canadiens means right now, losing Nikita Kucherov would hang a dark cloud over any result for the Bolts.

There hasn’t been an update yet regarding whether Kucherov is actually injured – or if this is a minor vs. significant issue – but there are concerns after he fell into the boards during tonight’s game.

You can see the fall in video form above the headline and also in this GIF from Stephanie Hail: