“You try not to think about something, but it’s the only thing you can think about,” Stepan told the New York Post’s Larry Brooks. “It’s tough finding the balance between playing with a clear mind and playing relaxed the way you understand you have to be in order to do what it takes to win a hockey game. I’d like to say it’s not on my mind, but of course it is, almost all the time.”
So, not scoring a goal since Jan. 17 – a span of 22 games – is that dripping faucet that’s keeping Stepan up at night. Especially since generating eight assists in those 22 contests won’t silence critics.
Looking at his game log, it does indeed feel like he’s being “too fine” with his shot selection at times.
While he did manage five SOG against the Lightning on March 6, he’s only fired one shot on goal in three of his last five games. Maybe that’s not a product of over-thinking, but if you want to score a goal, sometimes you’re better off merely firing away.
Perhaps the Carolina Hurricanes will be the tonic tonight, then? Their goaltending has been weak enough at times that head coach Bill Peters found himself regrettably venting about backup Eddie Lack, while Cam Ward hasn’t been particularly effective in his own right.
The Rangers have been able to produce solid offense even with Stepan’s struggles, yet they have to hope that he can get his head right at least by the playoffs, when they may very well need all the help they can get.