If the Rangers are going to win the Cup, Rick Nash must lead the charge

Rick Nash needs to let the beast out! (USATSI)

Rick Nash needs to let the beast out! (USATSI)

Rick Nash must be the man this post season. Playing well at both ends of the ice isn’t going to cut it. That isn’t what he was brought here for, nor paid to do. He needs to lead the Rangers in scoring as all Cup winners best players do.

Let’s also put aside the notion that it’s Henrik Lundqvist that must carry this team in the playoffs. If you’ve watched the Stanley Cup playoffs as closely as I have, you will see that the team that wins the Cup usually gets great goaltending. It is almost a given today. Here is the bottom line, goalies can’t score goals and in the end you have to put at least 1 up on the board in order to win the game.

Here’s another thing, arguing that Rick Nash doesn’t need to lead this team and only has to play well and make others around him better doesn’t cut the mustard. To give your highest paid forward a pass (Eric Staal aside, as he was a deadline acquisition) because he generates more shots than gives up is well, fancy stats stupidity. No, no, no, Rick Nash needs to produce goals and assists, not just excellent corsi stats. And yes fancy stats lovers, you can be excellent at corsi and produce next to nothing on the ice. Arguing that the law of averages will eventually work in your favor is meaningless as we enter Nash’s 4th playoff with the Rangers.

Nash celebrates win with Lunqvist (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nash celebrates win with Lunqvist (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

To argue that Rick Nash doesn’t need to be the man because the Rangers are deeper is nonsense too. Aside from 4th liners, Dominic Moore (35) and Tanner Glass (32), Nash is the senior leader at forward at the age of 31. It will be on #61 to find a way to power through defenses and tight checking to score goals and assists. He needs to lead the way, night in and night out.

Sure, we expect Derick Brassard (28) and Mats Zuccarello (28) to be mature enough to play big roles in the offense, plus the addition of Eric Staal (31) should really provide a veteran scoring presence. It will still be on Nash to lead. Don’t get me wrong, they will still need to be support players to big Rick and relieve some pressure on him when teams deploy shutdown strategies against him.

The younger forwards will be looking to him also. J.T. Miller (23), Chris Kreider (24) and Derek Stepan (25) can all score, but in those tight checking games they will look to their leaders to lead and the biggest name on the roster is Rick Nash.

A quick look at the last 5 Stanley Cup winners shows familiar names at the top of the goal and points leaders for their respective teams. Names like Patrick Kane and Anze Kopitar come up frequently. What do they have in common with Rick Nash? Well they are considered one of, if not THE team’s best players.

Last 5 Cup winners leading scorers

Last 5 Cup winners leading scorers

Here’s the bottom line, Rick Nash was not brought here just to play well. Nash is here to produce and most importantly produce in crunch time. This is Nash’s fourth crack at being the man for the Rangers in the playoffs. His 5 goals or 14 points just won’t cut it this year. The Rangers are not the defensive shut down team they were the two seasons prior. They make more mistakes then ever before back there and Lundqvist can’t bail them out every time. That is why he needs to produce more than ever before.

If the Rangers hope to win the Stanley Cup, one of the things they will need is an MVP like performance from Rick Nash. Double digit goal totals and 20 points or more are going to be required. Of course, it’s not all on him as he will need support from many of the Rangers I mentioned earlier.

One thing is for sure, if Rick Nash wants to know what champagne tastes like out of the Stanley Cup, it will be mostly up to him. This season, Nash can’t be a just good. He needs to be great.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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