Rangers' line of Brassard, Zuccarello and Pouliot clicking vs. Penguins
Derick Brassard doesn't have many answers.
The way his line has played, though, the Rangers center isn't facing many questions.
The grouping of Brassard, left wing Benoit Pouliot and right wing Mats Zuccarello has taken a simple approach and spun it into results during this Stanley Cup second-round series against the Penguins.
“We just complete each other really well,” Brassard said. “We're having a lot of fun playing together. We're just making plays. I don't have an answer for you. We're just playing. We don't put any pressure on ourselves.”
Funny because they're performing in pressure situations.
Pouliot scored what became the winning goal to down the Flyers in Round 1, blasting a one-timer off a neatly threaded pass from Brassard. Brassard got the winner in a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1, a few seconds after Pouliot blasted a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury for good measure when play wasn't stopped.
“Since Christmas, they've probably been our most consistent line,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “They've got real good chemistry. They read off one another and support one another well.”
The line's impact in this series has been hard to miss. It has accounted for five goals and six assists, including a pair of goals for Brassard during Friday's 5-1 win in Game 5.
Those five goals — half of the team's total in this series — are two more than the Rangers' other nine forwards combined.
When considering regular-season games as well, the Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello line has scored 11 goals and added 14 assists in nine games against the Penguins.
“Our line has made some big plays,” Brassard said. “We try to help the team offensively.
“We just tried to play hard (Friday), and we had some lucky bounces. ... Hopefully we can bring that for the next two games.”
The Rangers aren't afraid to test their depth and routinely cycle through four lines, a concept Vigneault got his players to buy into this offseason. Winger Martin St. Louis, a trade deadline acquisition, led the Rangers with an average of 18 minutes, 30 seconds of ice time during the regular season.
That depth was something that concerned Penguins coach Dan Bylsma before the series.
“When you watch them recently, you're looking at four good lines,” Bylsma said. “Right from the (Derek) Stepan line with more star power on the wings with (Rick) Nash and St. Louis. Their next line with Zuccarello, Brassard and Pouliot has been extremely good for them. Playing in the offensive zone, (they're) tough to handle.”
Brassard said he and his linemates are close.
That, and easygoing nature and refusal to get fancy, has enabled them to become the Rangers' most effective line of late.
“I think it helps that we're great friends off the ice,” Brassard said. “There's no pressure when we play together.”
It's tough to question the results.
“They've been able to generate good chances against a real strong opponent that defends real well,” Vigneault said Saturday. “They've been a big part of our success, and if we intend on moving forward, which we're trying to do, we're going to need those guys to come up big again.”
Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.
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