What an in-form Rick Nash means to the RangersSeptember 4, 2014, by
Last season, it can be reasonably argued that no other ‘contending’ team had to put up with as much inconsistency from their top line than the New York Rangers. In fact, the Rangers were surely the only team to go deep in the playoffs who couldn’t even identify a clear top forward line. Injuries, a lack of cohesion, a new system and a poor start to the year were all factors in the Rangers not having a legitimate top line almost all year.
If the Rangers are going to repeat or better their Stanley Cup final appearance in June they will need a clear, dominant top line to emerge. They can’t rely on their bottom six to out work other teams any longer. It all begins and ends with Rick Nash. Nash is the second most important Ranger, behind Henrik Lundqvist, and in front of Ryan McDonagh. After all, if McDonagh falters the Rangers still have two quality top line defensemen in Staal and Girardi to rely on, without considering the merits of Dan Boyle and Kevin Klein.
When Nash isn’t in the line-up or struggles to score, the Rangers don’t have an equally talented, physical forward of Nash’s calibre to step up. At this stage, a contending team shouldn’t yet be relying on a Chris Kreider type who is still developing (albeit developing well).
Nash’s ability to rise to the occasion as a Ranger is a hot topic of debate but given that he missed 17 games last year and yet was still third in the league with 9 game winning goals proves the difference maker he can be. He missed those 17 games and still led the Rangers in goals with 26 (St Louis had 30 but the vast majority were with Tampa). If Nash returns to his 40 goal form, if he plays like the elite forward he once was the Rangers will have a strong year. It’s as simple as that. You know McDonagh and Lundqvist will hold up their end of the bargain.
A strong year from Nash has a huge impact on the entire roster. It probably means Derek Stepan has performed well. It probably means Kreider has continued to develop and it probably means the likes of Marty St Louis and Mats Zuccarello face lesser quality opposition as an in-form Nash always faces the best that opponents have to offer.
Nash is the absolute key to the Rangers offense. With a full off-season, sustained health and with the depth the Rangers appear to have up front, there aren’t really any excuses for Nash any longer. He needs to step up and the Rangers need him to step up. If Nash stays on the ice, if he spends less time on the perimeter then the Rangers can contend again. In the weaker of the two conferences, the Rangers can return to the Cup Final on the back of a strong Rick Nash. That’s how much he means to the Rangers."What an in-form Rick Nash means to the Rangers",