Martin St. Louis is a consummate pro who has struggled mightily the past three weeks, but he is ready to put his struggles behind him. During a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis completed a feed from Rick Nash on the penalty kill to score his first goal as a Ranger.
St. Louis was acquired to help bolster the Blueshirts' offense, but prior to Tuesday, the potential Hall of Famer had been practically invisible.
Now that St. Louis has shaken the monkey off his back, he is ready to be a contributor for the Rangers. Over the last few seasons, St. Louis has been a model of consistency. Given his consistency, it was alarming to see him struggle as badly as he did with the Rangers.
Changing teams after 14 years is difficult, but for a player of St. Louis' caliber to not automatically fit in is alarming. When a player is struggling, that can lead to overthinking. Blueshirt fans saw this first-hand with Brad Richards last season.
St. Louis admitted to the media he was overthinking, and how he was trying to overcome his struggles.
Via Steve Zipay of Newsday:
The biggest thing is you've got to be honest with yourself, sometimes you're a little too hard on yourself, sometimes, maybe you're not hard enough on yourself. You've got to find that line that keeps you in a good place mentally, and try not to overthink it too much. You know you're one shot away from going the other way.
St. Louis did finally get that shot to go his way, and he told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News that it felt great. “It’s always nice to score goals, especially in a winning way,” St. Louis said. “I guess the first one is the toughest one to get.”
The Rangers currently have 43 wins and 91 points. They need two more points to clinch a playoff spot, and St. Louis can help the Blueshirts accomplish that. Now that the weight of not scoring a goal is off his shoulders, St. Louis can just get back to playing hockey.
It has been a few years since St. Louis played playoff hockey, but that is an area in which he has always thrived. Back in 2010-11, Tampa went on a magical run, and St. Louis tallied 20 points in 18 games. Granted, he was younger then, but his experience will be very valuable on a relatively young team.
He won a Stanley Cup ring with Richards in Tampa Bay, and he will be another voice in the locker room that can explain what it takes to win a championship. No one should expect St. Louis to lead the team in scoring during the playoffs, but he can be to the Rangers in 2014 what Mark Recchi was for Boston in 2011.
What will St. Louis do for Rangers during playoffs?
A lot of fans have already made up their minds on the St. Louis trade, and it isn't hard to see why. Ryan Callahan has been on fire since joining the Tampa Bay Lightning, and St. Louis has been stagnant.
Once the playoffs roll around, everyone will have a clean slate, and that is something St. Louis will welcome. In the past the Rangers' offense has gone to die during the playoffs, but things could be different this year if St. Louis plays like he has the past few seasons.
St. Louis may be sporting a look that features grey in his beard and hair, but he isn't ready to hang up his skates yet. Daniel Alfredsson, Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, Ray Whitney, Nicklas Lidstrom and countless others have shown that it is possible to be a game-changer during the "back nine" of your career, and St. Louis will be able to prove that come playoff time.
St. Louis' track record should be enough for Rangers fans to give him the benefit of the doubt, but there are no guarantees. No one is saying that St. Louis will be as effective in 2013-14 as he was in 2003-04, but he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.