The Rangers’ ‘big three’ coming to the fore at the right time?

Brad Richards is trying to make Glen Sather's decision a tough one
Brad Richards is trying to make Glen Sather’s decision a tough one

The signs were there at the end of the regular season as Martin St. Louis began to look like the player the Rangers hoped they had acquired. It continued on Thursday night. St. Louis, while not registering a shot, was engaged, around the puck and around the net all night long and came up with two huge assists as the Rangers put down the Flyers 4-1.

Brad Richards may have played his best ever game for the Rangers Thursday night. The veteran center had a huge powerplay goal, two crucial assists, playing an energetic game while being physically and defensively committed all night long. He was there when it mattered.

Then there’s Rick Nash. Nash looked to test Ray Emery at every opportunity (given he was shaky to begin, it was the right thing to do) and as the game developed Nash looked to go to the net with more frequency and could have scored as he cut to the net from the left. Nash also got an assist, as reward for his consistent performance on the night. If Nash drives to the net with more regularity the Rangers will be that much more dangerous.

It’s worth noting that the Rangers three most prominent forwards were three of the top four forwards in ice-time on Thursday. That has to continue if the Rangers are to be successful. If the Rangers have a long playoff run Nash, Richards and St Louis will all be contributors. This club doesn’t have the depth in terms of high end skill to survive without them producing so Thursday was a promising start.

When the Rangers big three are on their games, they are a match for any one – even the apparent powerhouses Boston and Pittsburgh. When Nash, St Louis and Richards are commanding the attention of the opponents best lines/ defensive pairs it allows more space for Mats Zuccarello and co. It allows the Rangers most consistent line of Zuccarello- Brassard – Pouliot to continue what they have done all season long – produce in the shadows of the Rangers marquee names.

Hockey clichés will tell you that goaltending, defense and depth win playoff series’. The Rangers definitely have the goaltending, they have a defensive unit that can match up with almost anyone in the league and when their big names are on form, they have the depth. If the Rangers are going to get near a Cup this year it has to start with the big three.

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11 thoughts on “The Rangers’ ‘big three’ coming to the fore at the right time?

  • Apr 19, 2014 at 9:15 am

    I’d like to also see Stepan have a breakout play-off this year. He has the wings to do the scoring for him, and all he has to do is dish out the biscit to them.

    Also, I believe that Brass will do a lot of good things as well!!!!!

    • Apr 19, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      When Stepan is going well and playing confident. He’s shooting when he needs to or at the very least he needs to shoot to change tendencies. He used to have a college level shot. It has been much improved since he entered the NHL. With 2 talented wingers on either side of him able to make plays. He can be the goal scorer now as well as the set up guy. That trio needs to lead this team. Stepan is the key. If he does take the bull by the horns. Then Richards & Brassard lines should have plenty of room against lesser tired competition to work against.
      That should just about be the Rangers offensive game plan. As well as have the 4th line pin the oppositions top line in its zone for an entire shift. Negating their effectiveness. The Defense needs to pick its spots to pinch in the zone and do it quickly and sneaky. With their skating ability none of the 3 Defense pairings should have too much trouble with odd man rushes.

  • Apr 19, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I’d like to think of Nash like I think of Vince Wilfork on the NE Patriots. Vince stands there at the line and occupies people so other people can get the stats; the sacks, the tackles.

    Nash is drawing the best of the opposition every night and if he chips in on the stats that will be fantastic. But it is not necessary for him to lead the team in scoring.

    The guy is a force when he is competing, which he has been doing for the 2nd half of this season. I have to believe this is a big part of why Zucc, Brass and Pouliot seem to glide around out there so freely. The other teams’ best shut down people are stapled to Nash’s line.

    • Apr 19, 2014 at 11:44 am

      Agree 100% with you. Sometimes I think people want (especially in NYC) every start to put up Gretzky like numbers, in a league that only one guy had over 100pts this year. Nash draws a double-team, the best defenders, the most behind-the-play shots etc… and the last half of the season (really the last 55 games or so) his compete level night-in night-out was strong to excellent.

  • Apr 19, 2014 at 11:26 am

    The Rangers PP was the difference in game 1 against Philly. Having McDonough back made a difference as he looked very poised on the point. BR did score a beauty but so did Stephan. Stephan and Brassard are the centers for the future of this franchise. BR still contributes to the team as he adds depth, but his days are numbered as are St. Louis. This could be their last dance together and I would love to see as a hockey and Ranger fan that they make the most of it.

    • Apr 19, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      Stepans goal as nice as it was. It was from a nasty pass through the entire Philly PK coverage. The Rangers did a good job tearing it apart. PKers looked dizzy from all the quick passing and were just standing around by the time Stepan got the puck.

  • Apr 19, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Iwould characterize this article as analagous to “pushing on a string” and trying to make an article out of something that did not exist:

    – The NYR are better than the Flyers, and we should expect to win
    – Brad Richards and MSL played well and, in the case of Richards, very well but their strong performance was ISOLATED TO THE POWER PLAY ONLY
    – Nash was not at all impressive and shot predominantly from areas of the ice where he had little chance to score; I did not see any driving to the net and, frankly, a guy his size shouldn’t be getting pushed down to the ice so easily on the power play

    The Rangers power play, led by Richards and MSL< performed and executed very well. We will need that to win this series and throughout the playoffs.

    But, let's not get carried away: 5v5, it was a tight game and these "Big 3" were no more effective than other players on the team.

    • Apr 19, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      I’ll emphatically agree with you on one point…that it should be EXPECTED that the Rangers stomp the Flyers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, with the new coach and the horrid start to the season people lowered the bar for this team. This is a better team then last season when nothing but the Cup would have been viewed as successful and they weren’t a Cup level team. This time around they beat a weak Philly team with back up goalie on a couple of Power Play goals in the 3rd and the reaction is elation.

      If the team reaches the ECF, then they accomplished what I’d expect. If they don’t, then this season should be viewed as a major disappointment. They should destroy Philly. The test comes against the ‘Guins.

      • Apr 20, 2014 at 12:02 am

        I disagree. I don’t think the Bruins are the best team in the Eastern Conference playoffs. I think Montreal is. Detroit is gonna beat Boston in the first round. The Bruins shot their load in the regular season and will get complacent with past achievements. I think the Wings embraced the under dog role and will use their young players to out hustle the Bruins. Montreal as much as it kills me to say is the new class of the East. The team the Rangers will need to beat.

    • Apr 19, 2014 at 11:56 pm

      Effectiveness to you comes down only to offense? The only goal the Flyers scored was on a deflection off MSL right over Hank. The rest of the night the Flyers managed 14 more SOG. Compared to the Rangers 36 or whatever. That’s not really a close game. The Flyers had opportunities. Every team will get theirs but the Rangers held firm. They also put a ton of pressure on them in their zone. It should’ve been 3-1 after 2 period. So it wasn’t really a close game at all.

  • Apr 19, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Gospel, Chris.

    Inasmuch, lets mull possible motivators for this Big Three.

    Nash just won gold at Sochi. Going forward he can’t help but be envisioning a once in a lifetime opportunity to add, or top that achievement with a deep Cup run. Especially given his lengthy stretch of mediocrity in Columbus.

    Then there’s the matter of pride.

    MSL was a snub of that same Canadian Olympic club (if I recall).

    Conversely Brad Richards is desperate to prove all of us wrong–from fans to management–with regards to his diminished abilities, not to mention the albatross that is his contract.

    They’re elite pros, Chris. I believe they’ll continue to stand out as this series, and hopefully the next three unfold.

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