It’s always difficult to evaluate a player’s postseason performance. Stakes are high. Blood pressures are through the roof. Sample sizes are small. Right now opinions of our top forwards range from “hey their puck possession numbers are terrific, they’re just not scoring,” to “they **** suck, trade them!” As always, somewhere between apathy and empathy is where reality lies.
For me, I don’t think any of these guys deserve the vitriol they’re receiving, but that’s not to say they don’t need to play better. They need to step it up and if they do not, they shouldn’t be immune from criticism, so long as it’s constructive.
Right now, Rick Nash, Brad Richards, and to some extent Derek Stepan aren’t playing to their capabilities. And make no mistake, unless these guys go full throttle from here on out, we can kiss our Cup dreams goodbye.
The problem is I don’t see one consistent issue with all of these players. Everyone’s troubles seem a little different and that puts AV in a tough spot. And that’s not to suggest AV should get a pass. He’s wallpaper at this point, but that’s an article for another day.
Rick Nash’s issues are pretty straight forward. His battle level is just far too low for the postseason. He’s not driving to the net. He’s not forechecking. He’s not battling along the walls. All of which were the same issues last postseason.
In 24 career playoff games, he has just two goals. Sure his puck possession numbers are great, but what good are shot attempts if they’re being taken from 32 feet out? A dangerous shot by any goalie’s definition is one taken in the slot. Right now Nash is 13th among our forwards in shot distance. That’s not good enough. Especially considering Dominic Moore is half his size, gets a fraction of his icetime and is getting shots off within 22-23 feet and has two big goals to boot.
Richards is another perimeter player, but he was never billed as a powerforward so I can live with him avoiding dangerous areas of the ice. My concern with Richie is the powerplay. No one gets more icetime on the advantage than he does and no one has less to show for it. He’s 2nd in the league in PP time-on-ice and tied for 22nd with 40 other players in PP points.
Pundits spend a lot of time analyzing our PP and what’s wrong with it. However, the consistent piece over the past 3 years has been Richie running it. He is not a QB anymore and until we get a legit one or McD grows into that role, we won’t be better than mediocre on the advantage.
As for Derek Stepan, I was hoping he’d have a big postseason after such a lackluster regular season, but perhaps my hopes were too high. At this point he’s what four years into in his career? Regular season stats are good not great. Postseason stats are decent. I think he just is what he is at this point – a stop-gap first liner till someone better comes along. Any hopes of him being an elite center in this league and with it high expectations should be tempered. He’s not a 1C guy.
Finally, I’m giving Hank and McDonagh a pass. Hank is Hank and McDonagh has had his hands full defensively. Plus, there are rumors that he’s playing injured, so I can live with his lack of offensive production."Our top players need to be better",