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

May 28, 2012, 1:08 PM EST

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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) Getty Images

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.

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