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The Rangers offense is on fire of late.
In their past three games, the Rangers have scored 18 goals, including eight against the Buffalo Sabres.
That's pretty remarkable for a team that averages 2.58 goals per game. In fact, they scored just 32 goals in the month of February alone.
The driving force behind this increase has been Brad Richards. In the month of April, Richards has scored 12 points. Seven of those points, including four goals, have come in the past three games.
Why has Richards started to break out of his earlier slumps? One reason has been the arrival of Mats Zuccarello. Richards and Zuccarello have played on a line for most of the time since Zuccarello rejoined the team at the end of March. While Zuccarello has only six points, he's been a presence in each game. He's had many chances, and he has given Richards a winger who can make plays by himself. That takes some pressure off of Richards, who now doesn't have to produce all of the offense on his own.
In addition, Derick Brassard has given the Rangers four legitimate centers. Before the trade, Richards had to assume more responsibility than he was capable of handling. Now, Brassard can take some of the load off. He can control the puck on the power play, giving Richards a chance to use his shot more instead of directing the action.
It also allows Richards to play a little less and keep himself fresher. In March, Richards played a little over 240 minutes. In April thus far, he's played only 173 minutes. This allows Richards to make a better impact when he is on the ice, because he's not tired.
It's not just Richards who is playing well. Derek Stepan has had a remarkable month of April on top of a remarkable season. He has 15 points in the month of April and 40 on the season. To put that in perspective, last season in 82 games, Stepan had 51 points. If he played like this for a full season, Stepan would end up with around 80 points.
He's been a catalyst for this team, taking a huge step forward in his development. He's been a terrific center for Rick Nash, who continues his strong play with 19 goals and 21 assists.
Ryan Callahan has also been terrific, with three goals and three assists in his last four games.
The Rangers are hitting on all cylinders on offense because their star players are playing well. The core of this team—Nash, Richards, Stepan and Callahan—have come up huge in April. Secondary players, like Derick Brassard, Zuccarello and Ryane Clowe, have also been terrific.
If the Rangers want to hit their stride going into the playoffs, then the star players need to continue to play well. A solid offense has a few things going for it: star players, scoring depth and good forechecking. That's how the Rangers have been playing of late, and it bodes well for them as they enter the playoffs.