Archive for Rick Nash
Who’s ready for another Game 7? I’m writing this as I watch the Blackhawks and Ducks duel, and it’s another reminder how much more enjoyable elimination games are when it’s not your team that’s playing. Tomorrow night is sure to be pure agony, at least until the final buzzer sounds. Then, hopefully, it will have been a ton of fun.
Since I can’t formulate coherent thoughts before this one, on to the musings:
– Though we can’t help but hope, there’s pretty much no chance Mats Zuccarello will play tomorrow. That said – if he were to practice today and was miraculously deemed game ready, where would he fit in the lineup? Zuccarello is not going to replace J.T. Miller in his old spot alongside Rick Nash and Derick Brassard after that trio produced 13 points in Game Six. Putting Zuccarello on the fourth line would obviously be a waste – but the same goes for Martin St. Louis, so slotting Zuc in on the third line and bumping MSL down doesn’t make sense either. The most likely hypothetical scenario would be to have Zuc replace Jesper Fast on the second line – but it’d be a real shame to banish Fast to fourth line Siberia with the way he’s played. Too bad it doesn’t matter.
– Speaking of Nash/Brassard/Miller, I did some quick addition after Tuesday’s game and noticed that the trio has accounted for 20 points in the series, just two fewer than the terrifying Triplets. Of course, 13 in one game skews that quite a bit, but hey, they did pretty much win that game singlehandedly (with help from Hank). You can show me all the statistics you want that say “clutch” isn’t real, but I refuse to believe it, and Brassard is a perfect counterexample.
Chris Kreider still isn’t perfect. He still has a lot of growing to do, he takes himself out of plays looking for (but often finding) big hits and until recently, many fans and media alike have demanded more consistency from a player who literally has everything in his tool kit. Hell, Kreider takes too many penalties and isn’t exactly Selke material in his own zone either. In short, there are warts to his game.
The Rangers evened the series against the Lightning with a gusty albeit imperfect win. They were shaky at the back, had to over rely on a brilliant Henrik Lundqvist and will have been delighted that Rick Nash had a breakout offensive performance but one thing is becoming more regular for the Rangers in the playoffs and that’s the development of Kreider.
It’s a good job Rick Nash gets paid a boat load of money because he’s having to put up with a lot of criticism since the playoffs began. Once again, the Rangers play their biggest game of the season in Tampa Bay tonight, looking to right the many wrongs of the game two stinker. A considerable amount of scrutiny will face Nash as the Rangers have now arrived at the point where good performances, great two-way play and timely assists from Nash are no longer enough. His lack of goals have surely become a major distraction and are now the elephant in the room. Win or loss.
Nash has to score. He has to score because the media demand it, the Rangers need it and because everyone know Tampa have the offence to score at will. Not helping Nash is the fact that Tampa’s superstar Steven Stamkos has found his game after a difficult start to the playoffs and Tyler (undrafted) Johnson has dominated the playoffs and has been an absolute beast against the Rangers. Given Nash’s 42 goal season, coupled with his seemingly annual playoff regression, seeing the opponents’ most important goal scorers raise their games at the most critical moments will be particularly jarring for Nash and fodder for the mob who are happy to criticise Nash.
Throughout the playoffs, both this year and last, those of us with heads on our shoulders have had to deal with the constant complaining about Rick Nash. While I can accept complaining from passionate fans, who just want to see their team win and vent their frustrations on the highest paid player, I won’t accept this from lazy analysts and broadcasters. Their job is to provide unbiased opinions, and in that regard, they fail.
Nash is not without criticism. He hasn’t scored. The onus falls on him to score. Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy wrote a very good piece on his scoring woes that you should read. To quickly summarize: Nash, like a lot of guys who aren’t bonafide stars, loads up season totals on bad teams, but struggles to score against playoff teams. That’s not a unique situation to Nash though.
Lambert re-evaluated Nash’s playoff performances based on his play against playoff teams in the regular season. The numbers were much more consistent with what we expect. This year alone, he’s seen a 32% (!!!) drop –not in the actual number, but his current SH% is 32% less than his average. For example, if his SH% is 10% for his career, he’s shooting 6.8%, which is a 32% drop– in his shooting percentage. That’s awful luck, and has negatively affected his G/60 (and raw goals, for those who don’t like per-60 numbers).
Two games in and Rick Nash has been good against the Capitals. Whether good is enough to win a Cup is another debate but the best part about Nash so far is that he appears to be getting better as the series develops.
Nash’s lack of goals in the postseason is an issue, of course it is. When your 42 goal regular season scorer, highest paid skater and go-to forward isn’t filling the net it’s an issue. However while Nash plays well and continues to make game influencing plays like he did in game two it’s fine, the Rangers can cope with this issue better than most teams in the league. If Alex Ovechkin suddenly stopped scoring (that would be nice) the Caps would be in trouble as the Caps can’t match the Rangers in depth; there’s a major difference in how the teams are constructed.
Tonight old foes reunite. The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals have seen a lot of each other in recent years as this will be the fifth time since 2009 the teams face off in postseason play. The Rangers welcome the Caps to the Garden well rested, but with plenty of question marks thanks to an indifferent powerplay, key players underperforming, injuries, and players returning from injury. We’ll get to the Rangers in a moment. Let’s take a look at the Capitals.
Capitals at a glance
We know what the Capitals are and what they do. The Capitals are a big team with immense top end skill and are a team who look to punish you physically. Forget about Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom for a moment (if that’s possible). The Capitals will try to outmuscle the Rangers with the likes of Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, Tom Wilson, and Troy Brouwer.
If you include Ovechkin, the Capitals have six players up front who stand 6-2 and above who all weigh in over 215 lbs. That’s not even accounting for guys such as Brooks Orpik and Tim Gleason on the blueline, both of whom love the physical stuff. While the Rangers can more than hold their own physically and along the boards, this isn’t the type of series they’ll want to play.
The Capitals enter the series with better possession numbers to the Rangers (52.0% against the Rangers 50.2%, even strength and score adjusted), similar shooting percentages (8.8% against 8.1% at even strength) but –for those of you that place significant worth in the statistic– are a much better team in the faceoff circle, leading the playoffs with a 56% success rate. It goes without saying that if the Rangers spend a lot of time in the penalty box, the Capitals faceoff skills combined with their (regular season) league-leading powerplay will make them pay.
With the Rangers no doubt enjoying watching the Capitals and Islanders beat each other up in a seven game marathon while benefiting from some rare down time to get healthy, let’s think about the line-up’s round one performance and look at a few statistics as the Rangers look to move deep into the post-season.
- The Rangers defense played well against the Capitals but Marc Staal in particular can be better. What’s promising is that despite the unit’s collective, solid performance everyone (maybe Girardi aside) can realistically elevate their games.
- Stating the obvious: a healthy Keith Yandle will be a much more dangerous Keith Yandle. If Yandle is 100% entering round two – and Kevin Klein returns – the Rangers will have a big advantage on the blueline against either potential opponent.
- Dan Girardi was by far the Rangers best defenseman over the five game series. He also wasn’t overused which will surely paid dividends later in the playoffs.
- Klein will surely enter the line-up for round two, game one given that he has at least another four days of rest. Klein will give the Rangers another dangerous shot from the blueline. Who will Klein be paired with?
- Henrik Lundqvist career GAA: 2.26, career save %: .921. In the playoffs he sports 2.21 and .923 numbers. Lundqvist was incredibly poised in the first round. He was exceptional with traffic and his rebound control was very good. He’s locked in.
It’s that horrible day, the one between games but the Rangers are heading into Friday with a 3-1 series lead. Life can’t get much sweeter as a Rangers fan right now. Let’s throw up a few random thoughts on Rangers goings on.
It appears Rick Nash will always divide opinion. Has Nash been dominant? No he hasn’t but he’s been damn good. Not just putting points up but always involved in the offense, Nash also continues to be one of the most defensively responsible ‘superstars’ in the game. Give me that kind of team first goal scorer any day. Star players on successful teams buy into a team first approach. The Red Wings of recent years always had superstars who could play a good two way game. That’s why they are always a contender. That’s what the Rangers have in Nash.
Understatement of the week: Derick Brassard’s new contract continues to look like a bargain. He has 21 points in 21 games against the Penguins. He has three goals in 4 playoff games. Brassard’s maturation into a quality, consistent center is complete. His enthusiasm for goals is infectious. Kudos to Glen Sather for taking a calculated risk by committing to Brassard for the long term.
Finally, after 82 games and 187 days, the Rangers now know they will be facing in the first round of the playoffs. After a relatively strong start to the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins, suffering from a number of significant injuries, limped into the 8th and final playoff spot on Saturday. In preparation for the start of the series on Thursday, we will be running some preview posts so we can see what lies ahead for the Blueshirts in the opening round.
First up is an analysis of Marc-Andre Fleury, who will have the esteemed honor of playing behind an absolutely injury ravaged defense. Fleury had a nice renaissance of sorts this season, posting numbers far above his career averages (2.32 GAA/.920 sv% vs career averages of 2.59 and .911, respectively). He was far from the problem for the Penguins this year. I actually did a preview of Fleury way back in 2012, and the scouting report has definitely changed a bit. Quick refresher if it’s been a while; I’ll cover Stance, Crease Movement/Depth, Equipment, Puck-Handling Ability and Exploitable Weaknesses. Let’s get after it… Read More→
The Rangers were unlucky to come out of Detroit with only one point. Then again, how often have we been able to say in the recent past that a Rangers team would be disappointed to come away from Detroit without the points despite out skilling and out skating the Wings? Call it progress.
I saw someone call Wednesday’s game a preview of the Eastern Conference Final. If that becomes fact the Rangers would be delighted with that opportunity. The Wings are a very talented team but over seven games, and with Henrik Lundqvist in net, the Rangers would be confident they would progress.
Yandle watch: You just know a handful of fans are already moaning thathe hasn’t registered ten powerplay points yet… Yandle has adjusted quickly especially when you consider he’s had almost no practice time. It’s hard not to get excited about the upside of this team.
James Sheppard had a solid debut and he looks like he’ll bring a healthy dose of hockey IQ to the Rangers. He keeps it simple, makes smart plays and looks defensively reliable. One game does not a career Ranger make, but it was a promising start for sure.