Archive for Rick Nash
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.
Before we get started, I just wanted to take a minute to lament west coast games. Last night wasn’t even a proper 10:30pm west coast game, and I still hated it. It forced me to admit that I am an old man when I fall asleep half way through the third period and miss everything. It’s stupid. All games should be played based on Eastern Standard Time. Get off my lawn!
Ok, onto some actual Ranger-related thoughts after five Hank-less games…
- Wow, Kevin Hayes.
- Speaking of Hayes, I’m going to state the obvious and talk about how great that third line has looked. JT Miller needs to stay in the lineup.
- I think Chris Kreider has an unbelievable amount of talent. However, he seems to be developing into a seriously one dimensional player. He can use speed to the outside and fire off a slightly off-angle shot. If he doesn’t get to the front of the net, it’s a pretty exciting build up, but nothing usually comes of it.
- I’m going on record and saying Marty St. Louis is in a slump. Far from done. Although, that turn over on the Av’s second goal last night was borderline inexcusable.
- Cam Talbot has looked very good in Hank’s absence. He has good composure, positioning and is prone to the big save. The key will be how consistent he can be if Hank is out for more than 10 games or so. That is the real separator of starting-caliber goalies. Can they rely on him night in night out?
- Rick Nash is awesome. I love that I get to say that now almost every time I write one of these posts.
- Speaking of Hank, his injury is one that is rarely seen in hockey. I’ll be cautious whenever he returns and I don’t know how confident we can be that he will be fully healthy when the time comes.
- I need to starting seeing some losing out of NYI, PIT and WSH very soon. I’m getting sick of their crap.
- The fanbase seems to be very split on how intense this year’s trade deadline should get. As long as Tanner Glass gets a good seat in the press box to watch from, I’ll be good.
- We are officially in the grind portion of the season. Especially without Hank, it’s tough to get up for a run through Feb/March. It’s about collecting points and jockeying for the highest conference position possible. Still on pace to fight for the top if games in hand are won.
- It never ceases to amuse me how much my wife loves watching the dad’s up in stands during their visits.
- How about that Evander Kane trade? I’m not going to like seeing Buffalo on the schedule in a couple years.
- I’d love to see MacKenzie Skapski get some action. For one game, let’s see what the kid’s got.
Rangers are right back at it tomorrow against the lowly Coyotes before a big tilt (relatively speaking) against the Isles at the Coliseum.
Regardless of their current record, the Rangers have a lot of passengers at present – quite a few players need to improve beyond just the four we discussed yesterday. If we were being critical, how much of the solid yet unspectacular record the Rangers currently have is the product of Rick Nash’s season (so far) and Henrik Lundqvist’s December hot streak? You can argue core players such as Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, and others need to be better, but you can also reasonably suggest Alain Vigneault needs to change as well.
Most elite players (goaltending aside) around the league are ridden by their head coaches: Double shifted, out on the ice as much as reasonably possible. Sure, at times John Tortorella rode his star players too much, which can be counterproductive but consider this: Amongst the top-30 goal scorers in the league, Rick Nash sits just 19th in ice time. Nash is definitely not playing too much.
Those with less ice time than Nash included Tampa’s Kucherov, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar in Detroit, and Max Pacioretty of Montreal – players on clubs who, arguably, all ice more balanced and deeper line-ups than the Rangers do up front. All three clubs certainly have more than two settled lines, which is all the Rangers have at the moment. Given the way the Islanders fourth line outworked the Rangers on Tuesday, are the Rangers losing games because they haven’t got the depth they require?
Anyone that has seen Rick Nash at any great length this season knows he’s playing at a Hart Trophy level. Despite his play however, he’s ‘only’ 16th in total points. Everyone knows the major award decision makers usually –heavily– favour the point producers; it’s how Erik Karlsson has a Norris trophy in his cabinet after all. With that in mind, what does Rick Nash have to do to be in the running for the game’s most prestigious individual prize? In short, he needs to get even better.
If Nash merely matches his production from the first half of the season he’ll likely set career highs in goals and points (currently has career highs of 41 goals and 79 points). Despite playing a strong two way game all year and having been remarkably consistent, Nash will need to smash his previous offensive totals. Take a look at the past four Hart winners.
Rick Nash has always been a solid penalty killer, a legitimate threat to provide offense even while down a man. Over his career, Nash has 20 shorthanded goals, with three already coming this season. Nash is so efficient on the PK because he has that rare combination of hockey IQ and skill. He uses these to anticipate passes, disrupt passing lanes, and generate odd-man rushes.
I’m a bit limited in my resources, since I’m basically just taking pictures of my TV as examples, so I only have one example of when it failed (hence the double-edged sword). We know when it succeeds, as these are the plays that we see turn into rushes up the ice. But when it fails, it temporarily leaves him out of position.
After a tremendous stretch of hockey going all the way back to December 8 and winning 16 out of 19 games, the Rangers get a much deserved break for All-Star weekend. Once they get through the festivities, they face a tough trip to Long Island to get a second crack to show the upstart Islanders who New York’s real team is. Since there isn’t much specific analysis that the crew hasn’t covered since the OT win again Ottawa, I have some thoughts…
- While I agree that the All-Star Game is kind of silly and since the implementation of the shootout, the Skills Competition has lost much of its luster, the All-Star Weekend is still a great concept for the host city. I was in Ottawa a couple years back when the All-Star Game was held there, and the whole city really came together in a celebration of hockey. We fans might not care at this point, but I’m sure the city of Columbus cares a great deal.
- That said…those jerseys. Yikes. Remember the days when the All-Star jerseys were modeled after old school sweaters? Those were sharp. I’m sure even The Suit approved. These looks like the hockey equivalent of a site worker’s safety vest.
- I’m glad Henrik Lundqvist decided to skip the weekend once Jimmy Howard went down. Over the past few seasons, he hasn’t gotten much in the way of rest this time of year. Between the Olympics and other All-Star festivities, he has been a busy guy in February. It’s only a couple days, but it could go a long way in recharging him for the stretch run.
- You have to be impressed with Matt Hunwick’s play of late, no?
It’s the half way point in the season and our collective egos are such that we like to hand out some mid-season grades to your New York Rangers. Dave got the ball rolling with the goaltending and coaching grades and I have been tasked with the top six forwards so let’s jump on in.
Rick Nash: 40GP 26G 15A 41Pts +17 4 GWG 4 PPG 3SHG
There really is only one player to start with and that’s the NHL’s leading goal scorer. Nash has had a first half to dream of. He’s been healthy, he’s been dominant at both ends of the ice, he’s been consistent (including a point streak of 11 games), he’s been clutch and he’s been everything you could ask for in a potential Hart Trophy candidate. That’s the level Nash has been at – Hart Trophy level.
Club bias aside I – and many others – think Nash could reasonably be in the mix for four major pieces of hardware at the end of the season: Hart (MVP), Selke (defensive forward), Ted Lindsay award (players MVP) and the Richard trophy (top goal scorer). Having a breath taking year.
Derek Stepan: 28GP 6G 21A 27pts +9 8 PPP 4 SHP
Stepan is a difficult one to grade. He still hasn’t developed in the faceoff circle (something that is holding him back from being a legitimate top line center), and he needs to use his shot more; he passes up on far too many quality shooting opportunities, but as a playmaker Stepan has elevated his game to another level this year.
Stepan’s passing and vision are routinely excellent and he didn’t show much rust coming back from his injury. Averaging almost a point per game, Stepan has shown real consistency in his play as a pass first center while he has made a real difference on both special teams units. Wherever Stepan is, he usually has made a positive difference. If he would shoot a little more he would be even more dangerous.
Marty St Louis: 40GP 14G 18A 32pts 12PPP
St Louis is no longer the top line, 100 point winger he once was however he’s still proving he can be a force on the ice and has shown that he’s a leader on this relatively young Rangers team. St Louis has been streaky this year and has had games where he has been completely invisible, something that the Rangers have been able to tolerate because they’ve received fairly balanced scoring this year. However, despite the occasional goal scoring drought and playing in Nash’s shadow, St Louis is still closing in on another 60+ point season which for a player approaching his 40th birthday is hugely impressive.
St Louis is still lethal on the powerplay, he still commands the attention of the opposition and he is still capable of scoring in bunches something that only really he and Nash can do on this Ranger team. St Louis has been good. Hopefully his best will come at the end of the year.
Chris Kreider: 38GP 8G 12A 20pts +9 83Hits
If these grades were based on the last week or two, Kreider’s would be more positive but they’re not. Kreider has endured an inconsistent, frustrating and difficult year and yet he still has a chance to set a career high in goals, assists and points with a solid second half. Perhaps the expectations were too high, but Kreider has struggled in his own end, has endured long slumps, has played recklessly and has been somewhat of a turnover machine. With that all said we’ve seen Kreider dominate teams when he’s on his game, he’s physically imposing and offers the Rangers (and the opposition) something only Rick Nash can do on this team. If Kreider has a strong second half – assuming Nash and St Louis are still firing – it would likely mean the Rangers are flying through the schedule.
Derick Brassard: 38GP 11G 22A 33pts 14 PPP
Brassard has finally developed a level of consistency that does his talent justice (although I haven’t yet forgiven him for his horrendous follow up miss against the Isles). While he has undoubtedly been the beneficiary of Rick Nash’s return to prominence he has also helped Nash do what he has done. Brassard has shown an incredible array of passing, creativity perhaps only rivalled by Mats Zuccarello and has been a powerplay monster with 14 points with the extra man – tops on the Rangers.
Brassard has been much like Stepan, the owner of a wicked shot that he should use more. This season we’ve started to see him do just that – shoot – and no shock, he’s begun to rack up the points. Brassard is on course to smash his career highs in all major categories and is proving Glen Sather’s faith in him to be a smart investment. Brassard has been dynamic, a bargain at 5m, and has fully established himself as a top six center, and on a contending team no less.
Mats Zuccarello: 38GP 7G 15A 22pts +11
Zuccarello has been inconsistent this year but even during spells where he wasn’t producing he has almost never been found lacking in effort. I still struggle to decide whether Zuccarello is a great third line winger or worthy of a permanent top six spot. At times he has struggled to follow up on his break out year of 2013-14 but still, has been one of the Rangers more dangerous players.
Zuccarello has made minimal impact on special teams but his production at even strength has been relatively consistent; he may be the victim of others succeeding on the PP in his place. Zuccarello is similar in one way to Kreider; if coach Vigneault can generate some consistency from him then the Rangers would be in an envious position.
You see Zuccarello’s talent, his on ice vision and hustle and you can’t help wanting more even expecting more out of him, which perhaps is somewhat unfair. With a strong second half there’s still an outside change Zuccarello can flirt with a second 50 point season. Not bad for an undrafted undersized Norwegian.
The most exciting part of the top six’ performances thus far is that there appears room for improvement. Kreider, Zuccarello and St Louis all have had difficult times this season although every member of the top six have played well at least in spurts. If the Rangers can have their top two lines all firing at the same time, there’s very excit
When you take a look around the internet Rick Nash’s name isn’t being mentioned in discussions for the major, end of season hardware. Why not? Nash, despite playing almost Selke-level defense and obviously second in the league in goals is doing it all for the Rangers at both ends of the rink yet the Hockey News didn’t even consider him in their discussion for their mid season awards post – not a sniff. We’ve come to expect it from the Hockey News but in their defence they’re not the only outlet that hasn’t touted Nash’s credentials.
Nash is on course for approximately 90 points; he may also challenge Jaromir Jagr’s 54 goal record setting season for the Rangers. Nash is in the top ten for game winning goals and is third in the league in shorthanded goals. There really isn’t anything that Nash hasn’t done for the Rangers, yet here we are and he’s not in the mix for some media love. What gives?
It’s mid season and perhaps it’s a pointless argument. Nobody won anything in January whether it be team or individual success. Nash is in the middle of his finest season as a Ranger and arguably his finest season to date. Nash took a lot of criticism in the last postseason (some rightly so) even though he played hard, within a team frame work (are you reading, Phil Kessel?) and certainly contributed to the Rangers march to the Cup Final even if it wasn’t the contribution many expected.
Nash is likely suffering from the mud that has stuck from last spring. It doesn’t matter. The Rangers know what they have in Nash and they know he’s an elite weapon who is at the top of his game. The Rangers power forward has found a new maturity in his game, a world class level of consistency and is all of a sudden absolutely worth the outlay and the cap hit he comes with. Rangers’ fans won’t care if Nash isn’t being discussed so long as the team has another deep playoff run and really, that’s all that matters. Thanks but no thanks Hockey News.