The last time that Derick Brassard played in Madison Square Garden, he was wearing No. 16 in “Broadway Blue”. That was last April 21st when the Rangers’ were blanked, 5-0, in game four of their five game, first round, playoff loss to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
The playmaking center, who wore No. 19, made his return to MSG last night as his new team, the Ottawa Senators, stymied his old team in a 2-0 whitewashing. “It was a little different,” said Brassard in the visitors room after the game. “I didn’t come in the same way that I was, usually, for the last four years.”
He didn’t go out of the Garden the same way as he did last spring. This time, he was on the winning side of a shutout.
The Rangers, who acquired the former sixth overall pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft from the Columbus Blue Jackets in April of 2013, sent Brassard and a 2018 seventh round pick to Ottawa for center Mika Zibanejad (who broke his leg and is sidelined for at least six weeks) and the Senators’ 2018 second round pick.
Brassard scored 69 goals with 105 assists during parts of four seasons with the Rangers, but General Manager Jeff Gorton needed to free up salary cap space. Brassard had three years and $15 million dollars left on his deal while Zibanejad was younger and cheaper. The Rangers also wanted to balance out their lineup so they replaced a left handed shot with a right handed one.
On a personal level, it wasn’t a “story book” return for Brassard. He didn’t score a hat trick or the winning goal in overtime (as he did against the Penguins in game one of the 2014 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals) and he didn’t even dent the score sheet, but you can’t discount the contribution he made to a Ranger team that nearly won a Stanley Cup.
It had to be strange for Brassard, who centered a line with right wing Mark Stone and left wing Mike Hoffman, to take the ice against his old team for the first time. “To see the other guys that I played [with] the last four years was pretty surreal,” he said.
At the initial TV timeout of the first period, the Rangers honored the 29-year old Quebec native with a video tribute that highlighted some of his big moments during his three-plus years with the “Blueshirts.” Afterwards, the crowd of 18,006 gave him a standing ovation.
“It was great. Great feeling, nice ovation,” Brassard said, “really thankful for the fans here that appreciated my work the last four years.”
Brassard was not on the ice in the second period when Stone scored Ottawa’s second goal on the power play. Hoffman got the lone assist after a clearing attempt by the Rangers hit the referee to set up the score.
After the game, Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson, who blanked the Rangers by making 33 saves, was the rightful media darling, but Brassard got a reminder of what he was missing as he hosted a pretty decent sized scrum.
He was also reminded of the moments that he enjoyed the most during his tenure on 33rd street and 8th avenue. “The Cup runs that we had, it was pretty special. We came really close,” Brassard said. “I just miss those times when I was playing here. The great atmosphere in the playoffs.”
Brassard won’t have his No. 16 hoisted to the rafters but he made an impact while donning the Ranger jersey. “Living here in New York, playing here in this building, playing for this [Rangers] organization, it’s pretty special,” Brassard said.