Rick Nash having a career year leading Rangers quest for the Cup

Rick Nash celebrates a shorthanded goal (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Rick Nash celebrates a shorthanded goal (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

It’s been two summers and almost three seasons since Rangers GM Glen Sather landed Rick Nash for two homegrown players, a young defenseman, and a 1st round draft pick. Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky were considered core players for the Rangers that could not and would not be traded.

Both players defined the hard-nosed 2-way hockey that then head coach John Tortorella employed. With little in the way of A-list prospects in the system, the Rangers had to part with young roster players to land Nash.


The player they got in return was a player fans in Columbus were equally attached to. Nash was after all the captain and franchise player in Ohio since the day he was drafted in 2002. He led the Columbus franchise to their only playoff appearance in 2009 when he had his best overall season in terms of points. The 79 points he tallied that season is still Nash’ best overall season but a good stretch run for him could still produce a career year.

The season that Rick Nash is having, has once again put him in the conversation with the NHL elite.

There may be better goal scorers in the NHL like Alex Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos, but neither of those players are as well rounded as Rick Nash. Ovechkin has 19 of his 43 goals on the power play and Stamkos has 10 goals with the man advantage this season of his 36. Both players score a large portion of their goals with big perimeter shots.

Ovechkin is probably the best goal scorer in the NHL with Stamkos right in the discussion. The problem with both of them is that in the playoffs where the checking intensifies and there’s less space. Teams that play well disciplined hockey taking away the power play can take away the player. You aren’t taking Rick Nash out of the game with any single situation.

Of the best goal scorers in the East, only Rick Nash plays in all situations.

Nash has 5 of his 38 goals on the power play for the 14/15 season. He’s not a one dimensional scorer as many of the best in the NHL have a niche they use to tally goals. He doesn’t score with one-timers from the face-off circle like Ovechkin or Stamkos. Nash has 29 goals at even strength for the 14/15 season and 4 shorthanded goals.

Head coach Alain Vigneault isn’t afraid to use Nash on the ice while short handed. Of John Tavares, Steven Stamkos (0.2), Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby (0.3), and Rick Nash (1.3), only Nash plays significant minutes shorthanded on a regular basis with close to a minute and a half per game shorthanded.

On the ice Rick Nash has been visibly great but what do his underlying stats look like?

During the Rangers 13/14 season Nash scored on 26 of 258 shots (10.1%), after sustaining a concussion from a check to the head in the third game of the season. So far this season Nash has 38 goals on 236 shots, good for a 16.1% shooting percentage. Well above his career average of 12.7%. He’s shooting the puck from inside the high scoring areas which is sustainable from a statistical standpoint.

[su_quote cite=”Rick Carpiniello” url=”https://wwwnhl.com/ice/newsindex.htm?navid=nav-nws-main#”]”He is opportunistic, he’s not a volume guy,” Weekes said. “Everybody has to play to their strengths no matter who you are. For Ovi to be more of an in-tight, net-front guy more than a shooting guy, he’d be playing out of rhythm. Whereas for Nash, last year during the playoffs he was a 30-foot shot guy, and he was playing out of rhythm. Now he’s playing within the game that he needs to play to be successful and to be great. He’s been awesome this year.”[/su_quote]

When scoring well above career average, a drought can happen when a player returns closer to his career average. In Nash’s case some experts believe Nash can sustain his high shooting percentage this season. Mainly because of the areas and way in which he is scoring his goals this season. He’s also finished full seasons with shooting percentages of over 15% in years prior to this one. A fall from the plateau Nash is on now is always possible but with the way he and his teammates are playing. Makes it possible for Nash to continue his scoring pace.

Scoring chance for while the player is on ice is the best predictor of future goals for.
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)

Since February 1, the Rangers had 56.9% of the scoring chances while Nash was on the ice. A very good sign that a player will continue to have success in the way he had been playing. He has two very good line mates to play with in Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. Both players have posted equally impressive numbers. Brassard 59.5% and Zuccarello 60.7% SCF% in the same time span at even strength.

On NHL.com Dan Bylsma had this to say about Rick Nash. “It’s (Sh%) north of 16 percent now and sometimes for a shooter who shoots it in the net, that’s a little bit high and that’s a little bit lucky, but he doesn’t take a lot of unwarranted shots,” Bylsma said. “He does a lot of driving to get there with his speed and size. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5-on-5 or when he’s killing a penalty, he still has that speed and step and scores goals the same way.”

The playoffs are right around the corner and the Rangers have a difficult month of games in March before they even get there. They’ll need their entire team to play at full capacity for the remainder of the regular season. If Rick Nash continues his torrid pace down the stretch, the Rangers should be able to stay in the race for first place in the Metro. It’ll be a huge boom for the players to have their stud power forward scoring in the playoffs.

Last season the Rangers won games with 12 forwards and 6 defense. They have comparable depth this season but if Rick Nash scores a point per game in the playoffs. This could be the season Nash and the Rangers hoist the Cup on Broadway and down the Canyon of Heroes.