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Brassard thriving with Rangers in first postseason

by Dan Rosen

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- John Moore doesn't drop his jaw or act surprised when he sees Derick Brassard deliver a picture-perfect, tape-to-tape, cross-zone pass, as he did to set up Carl Hagelin for a New York Rangers goal in Game 4 against the Washington Capitals.

Moore similarly doesn't gush when he sees Brassard make a quick read from behind the goal line to find Arron Asham cutting through the slot for a slam-dunk goal, as he did in Game 3.

These types of crisp passes and quick decisions have long been part of Brassard's game. Moore saw them in spurts when they were teammates on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I always knew the skill was there," Moore said after practice Wednesday.

So did the Blue Jackets, but Brassard never quite delivered on it consistently, the way the forward is right now for the Rangers. He's a big reason they're playing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Bruins on Thursday at TD Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

Brassard, who never has been a consistent point-per-game player in his NHL career, has 20 points in 20 games with the Rangers after finishing the conference quarterfinals, his first series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a team-high nine points in seven games. This after he registered 11 points in 13 games following the trade that sent him, Moore and Derek Dorsett to the Big Apple for Marian Gaborik.

Brassard has emerged as the Rangers' second-line center in between Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello and has become a fixture on the second power-play unit, which coach John Tortorella occasionally used as his first unit against the Capitals largely because of how well Brassard was playing.

"This is the best I've felt in a long time," Brassard told "I just feel like I don't think as much on the ice here, I just play. The way we play the game and the way we manage the puck I think it fits really well with my style. They don't make me try to play another game. Why I play in the NHL is because I make plays, and now not only is my confidence high, it's the best I've felt in a long time."

Moore could tell. He didn't need Brassard to say it.

"At the end of last year he was really taking off, but the way he's playing now, I haven't seen that," Moore, a defenseman, said. "He's an unbelievable player and you can see it every day, but it's been really fun these last few days to see him take off."

Brassard's production has bought him some capital with Tortorella. He earned a longer leash, so to speak.

"I'm going to let him go," Tortorella said. "If there are some struggles I'm certainly not going to put him on the bench just because of how he's played. He has played very well for us and I don't see that changing."

Brassard has to go back to 2008, when he played in the Calder Cup Playoffs with the Syracuse Crunch, to remember the last time he felt this good about his game and his contributions to his team. He also had this feeling a few times during his career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Drummondville Voltigeurs.

"I played my game and just worried about putting up points for the team," Brassard said. "I was making plays and having fun."

He admitted all the losing he did in Columbus sapped the energy from his game. It took away the fun.

"After a couple of years when you try hard and you work hard in the summer and there is no result, no playoffs, you can't have the same energy," Brassard said.

The trade reignited his passion and, as Brassard offered, gave him a new opportunity to prove himself.

"As soon as I got traded I was like, 'Whoa,' it's a new start, some fresh air," he said.

Now Brassard has another opportunity, this time against the Bruins. What he did against the Capitals doesn't matter anymore. Brassard, like his teammates, has what is essentially a fresh sheet of ice to try to make his mark against Boston and get New York to the conference finals for a second straight year.

"I know I can help the team and that's what I'm planning to do in the second round," Brassard said.

It wouldn't be so shocking if he does.

"As with all of us, his confidence has just exploded," Moore said. "You can see it, the plays he's making with some guys here and the chemistry he has formed, I think it's just his skill taking over and showing itself."


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