Rick Nash was destined to rebound this season, it was all in the numbers
Last season, Rick Nash was snake bit. The cherry on top came in OT of game 5 with a wide open net and Nash shooting a puck right down the heart of it. Out of nowhere, Slava Voynov flashed his stick out and struck the puck on its thin shaft. The shot sailed high and the Rangers Cup dream would end soon after.
There was much promise too in his first season in NY, which began with – a lockout. Well, isn’t that just the Rangers luck? Regardless, in his first stint as a Ranger under a defense first coach in John Tortorella, he scored 21 goals in just 44 games.
The next season, in just his first full year in NY, the Rangers went on a late run starting in January on the strength of 19 of his 26 goals. The Blueshirts would eventually make it to the Stanley Cup Final and fall in 5 to the much better L.A. Kings.
Yet, many people criticized Rick for not producing last year. It’s funny how everyone forgets he was concussed a week into the season in SJ. Injuries derailed his 2013/14 campaign to 65 games and he posted just a .60 points per game total. The prior season he was excellent, scoring at a .95 points clip. A simple rebound to 2012/13 numbers would be a 40 goal and 80 points season, this year his pace is far greater.
In his last game, Rick Nash was credited with the 4th and final goal of the game, it turned a 2 goals and 1 assist night into a hat-trick and 4 points. Snake-bit no longer. In just 32 games this season, Nash has 23 goals and 36 points.
For his career, these are Nash averages:
Career Regular Season:
783 GAMES PLAYED / 336 GOALS / .43 GOALS PER GAME / 12.4% SHOOTING
Even in what many called a bad year, he was scoring goals at a rate of .40 per game. That is just a hair shy of his career average but his points per game were drastically down. His career points average prior to last season was .82, in 2013/14 thanks to injuries and bad luck it plummeted to the previously mentioned .60 points per game.
Now with lady luck by his side and what appears to be a very healthy mind & body, Nash is scoring goals at a .72 goals per game pace and points at 1.12! If Nash can keep this up, we could be looking at 59 goals and 92 points. If he scores 55, he will break Jaromir Jagr’s NYR single season goal record of 54 set in 2005.
Way back in July, I played stats prediction for the upcoming season, what I came up with was a rebound to 39 goals and 73 points. Let’s just say, I’m pretty darn confident he will hit these numbers. Even if he regresses from his current 19.4% shooting percentage and closer to his career 12.4% he will crush last year’s stats.
In October, Nash was scoring at a rate of 31% – ASTONISHING. He only fired 29 shots and notched 9 goals. The following month he dropped to 13.7%, which is closer to his career average. He still scored 7 goals because he simply started to shoot the puck more. In December, Nash has another 7 thus far and is close to 20% shooting.
So what’s the real difference besides lady luck and health? It’s where he is going for his goals. We’ve all seen the notable change this year, he is using his speed for breakaways for sure, but he is driving the net more than ever. Here’s a visualization from last year and this year of Nash’s goals from SportingCharts.com:
Rick Nash has taken his game to the heights we expected them to be. He has always been one of the premiere goal scorers in the NHL, but he is also an underrated defensive player. This year, Rick Nash is the total package and had Alain Vigneault decided to give him the C instead of Ryan McDonagh, it would have been justified.
However, considering the pressure he puts on himself, it was probably wise not to give that burden back to the former captain of the Blue Jackets. Of course, while he is flying right now, it could all come crashing down in the post-season.
If Rick Nash tallied 60 goals during the season, and had even an ok playoffs it would not satisfy many of his critics. That is the nature of sports, especially when you make over 7 million a year. Still, you have to get there first and right now the Rangers are riding the Big Blue Bus with the #61 on its back through the regular season.
Editor’s Note: Hyperlinks in this post are from a series of articles I did over the summer. So when other sites say they saw this coming, we can prove it.