Archive for Rick Nash
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.
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.