St. Louis remains a threat
Veteran winger pushing 40, but Rangers needs all hands on deck
NEW YORK — Martin St. Louis wanted to say he had grown wiser with age. That salt-and-pepper hair has allowed the 39-year-old veteran to put into perspective what he might not have been able to as a rookie in the NHL.
But the truth was it hasn’t.
St. Louis has won two scoring titles, a Hart Trophy and a Stanley Cup. He helped Canada win a gold medal at last year’s Olympics and has scored 84 points in 93 career playoff games. But the fivegame drought that St. Louis experienced during the New York Rangers’ dismantling of the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he managed no goals and just one assist in the first round of the playoffs, still eats at St. Louis in ways you cannot imagine.
“Of course that would bother me 10 years ago,” St. Louis said of his lack of production in the 4-1 series win. “Of course it does (now). Does it bother me in a way that I’m frustrated? No. It bothers me in a way that I know I can be better.”
The Rangers also believe St. Louis can be productive again. That is why with Mats Zuccarello injured, he is being promoted to the top line alongside Rick Nash and Derick Brassard for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
It is a role that St. Louis has played his entire career. And yet, in a season where his ice time has been cut by about four minutes, it is a role he is now moving away from.
Though he finished with 21 goals (second only to Rick Nash’s 42) and ranked fourth on the team with 52 points in 74 games, St. Louis’ point per game average was his lowest since 2001-02. It is becoming harder for him to use his speed, to unleash that onetimer that helped him score 41 career playoff goals.
Part of it is a lack of ice time (“The pace of the game is so fast right now that it’s tough to play the 22 minutes that I probably used to play”) and opportunity, having played with third-line forwards Carl Hagelin and Kevin Hayes. But the bigger reason might be that St. Louis is less than two months away from 40.
At the same time, for a five-foot-eight winger who thrives on adversity after being passed up in the NHL draft, it’s dangerous to write him off just yet.
“Marty’s Marty. He’s a hall of fame player and arguably the smartest player that’s played in this league,” said Rangers defenceman Dan Boyle, who won a Stanley Cup with St. Louis as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.
The Rangers, who averaged the second-fewest goals per game out of the teams that advanced into the second round, certainly hope that is true.
With Zuccarello out indefinitely with a suspected concussion suffered in the first round, they could use all the offensive help they can get.
“If we want to go from eight (teams) to four and take care of Washington, obviously all of our guys need to be better,” said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. “And Marty’s one of those guys.”
For St. Louis, who is a pending unrestricted free agent, it is a chance to either secure a new deal or finish his impressive — if not unlikely — NHL career on a high note. It is a chance, he said, to create more memories.