NEW YORK – The transition has been tough. That much is clear.
Martin St. Louis had 29 goals and 62 points in 61 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season. After being traded to the New York Rangers at the March deadline, he scored just once and added seven assists in 19 games.
"People were looking for me to get results and those tough times make you appreciate the good times," said St. Louis on the eve of his first playoffs in the Big Apple. "I've failed a bunch of times, but I know I've been successful many times too so, you know, I've worked hard to get my game going. I feel comfortable here."
It took awhile. Moving from sunny Florida where hockey players are as anonymous as mailmen to The City that Never Sleeps where the bright lights can either immortalize or stun was never going to be simple.
"It is tough, I mean, I've been somewhere for 13 seasons. In one place everyone knew me, I knew everybody, now you come to [a new] place, I think people know of me and I don't think they know me and that takes time," St. Louis explained.
And the time is now. St. Louis had four assists in his last two games before the playoffs began. He had two assists in New York's Game 1 win on Thursday night. It seems like he's heating up at the perfect time.
"This is playoff time and this is the time when you get judged and I'm excited about that," he said.
St. Louis did everything you can in Tampa. He won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer twice, including in last year's lockout-shortened campaign. He won the Hart Trophy as the league MVP (2003-04). He hoisted the Stanley Cup a decade ago. He has averaged more than a point per playoff game (70 in 64 career post-season contests).
"At the end of the day, this is different," said St. Louis, who is well-known for his intense fitness regiment. "This is different. It's not because you had success that you're going to have success. You've got to go earn it every day and I'm going to try and do that starting with Game 1 of this series."
Despite his track record in the game, St. Louis believes he still needs to prove himself to his new teammates.
"Respect's not just given, you earn that respect and I think I did that in Tampa and now I'm trying to build that here and there's no better [time] to do that then going through a playoff experience."
St. Louis has made a career of proving doubters wrong. At first, they said he was too small to make the NHL. He went undrafted and unsigned. Finally the Calgary Flames gave him a shot before ultimately buying out his contract after he was passed over in the 2000 expansion draft. Then there were the Olympic snubs in 2010 and 2014 that once again cast him in the underdog role.
And now here we are again, with some speculating St. Louis made a major miscalculation leaving Tampa where he was playing well and working alongside Steven Stamkos on a team that appears to be on the rise.
And despite that, St. Louis insists he hasn't let his mind wander to his legacy and how it may have been altered by what has happened in the last few months.
"Right now, it's so magnified, because of where we are, I don't think I've had time to focus on big-picture stuff. I think I've been focusing on getting in [the playoffs] and now that we're in, doing good things. I think I'll focus on big-picture stuff maybe later in the summer. I'm trying to stay in the moment.
"These are the moments you play for. This is what keeps you going."