As Rick Nash continues to struggle, Rangers looking to other heroes

Rick Nash vs Lightning (Getty)

Rick Nash vs Lightning (Getty)

Recently a lot has been said about Rick Nash and his lack of scoring in recent games as well as his playoff career. When the Rangers lose a game in the playoffs the onus always seems to fall on Nash when he fails to score a goal. Even when he does put one in the net it’s not enough.

Steven Stamkos failed to score a single goal and had only 3 assists in Tampa Bay’s first round series with the Detroit Red Wings but that was no problem since Tyler Johnson was on fire. Stamkos has since found his scoring touch and is helping the Lightning win games against the Rangers. Rick Nash has played well so far in this series but the Rangers best forward is Chris Kreider. His rare combination of size and speed make him the Rangers go to player for plays on offense.

Rick Nash is a great goal scorer but Chris Kreider is the go to Player on the Rangers!

Kreider emerging  (NYR Twitter)

Kreider emerging (NYR Twitter)

The Rangers have gotten plenty of clutch goals from their best playoff players. Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, and Derek Stepan have gotten it done. However, even with the Rangers are winning Nash takes heat for not scoring.

With the depth New York has it’s true that the Rangers are a much better team and maybe the best in the NHL if Rick Nash is hot. However, Chris Kreider makes this team go not Rick Nash. Stepan and Brassard are counted on for big plays and Kevin Hayes has played well since moving to the right-wing although I think it’s a waste to play him there but I digress.

The Rangers won 2 series and make it to the Conference Finals and yet Nash is the scapegoat when a loss like game 2 on Monday or game three Wednesday happens. In an article written for NHL.com Alain Vigneault called out his best players but without naming any particular one. Asked specifically about slumping left-wing Rick Nash, who has two goals on 50 shots in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Vigneault basically said the Rangers won’t win if they don’t get more out of the player who scored 42 goals in the regular season.

Alain Vigneault on Rick Nash in a post practice press conference.

“He’s working extremely hard, he’s getting physically involved, he’s getting some looks,” Vigneault said of Nash. “Would I like him to finish on some of those looks? Yes. Do we need him to finish on those looks if we intend to win? Probably yes. He knows that. But this is a team game, a team concept. We need all to be better from our goaltender out. Our defensive group needs to be better. These guys (the Lightning) have obviously got great offensive lines and our forwards need to challenge their group, not just Rick Nash.” per

 Dan Rosen – NHL.com Senior Writer

Would the New York Rangers be a better team with a hot Rick Nash, absolutely but that just isn’t the case right now. His inability to score means other players must take his prime spot as offensive star. Right now, that player we are all looking to is Chris Kreider.

Derick Brassard also ups his game when a play is needed and always works hard to retrieve pucks along the boards. He has all the skills to be a playoff star for the Rangers. Derek Stepan has four goals this post season and all of them have come in big spots. Aside from these three players, the Rangers have countless others that can and will make the opposition pay. They can win in these playoffs without lots of goals from Nash.

Zuccarello shoots on Talbot yesterday at practice (photo via Pat Leonard NYDN)

Zuccarello shoots on Talbot yesterday at practice (photo via Pat Leonard NYDN)

Nash also had his line reformed since the injury to Mats Zuccarello and has had a tough time since. Although there was not a lot of room in the second round series against the Washington Capitals. In the first round Nash had 1G-3A in the five game series against Pittsburgh. Since the absence of Mats Zuccarello, his point (10GP 1G-2A) production has slipped. When Zuccarello returns to the lineup, Rick Nash will have more time and space to make plays as “Zuc” is a wizard with the puck and has a very high hockey IQ.

Rather than put the blame for scoring droughts on Rick Nash, St. Louis has hurt the team with his lackluster play and lack of a single goal.

To make things harder on Nash not only is the Rangers top line wing Zuccarello out of the lineup, he’s been at times replaced with a struggling Marty St. Louis who has done little (6 assists) in that prominent top six role. If St. Louis were to drive possession and even put the puck in the net, the Rangers would not be having trouble scoring 3 goals in a game.

If anyone deserves to be criticized for the lack of scoring it should be Martin St. Louis. He has done little to affect the score and has hurt the team with untimely mistakes and turnovers. I can’t see Alain Vigneault moving St. Louis any further down the lineup than the third line but he has done little to deserve big power play minutes. The play on the two-man advantage in game two was a turning point as TB is undefeated when scoring first. Instead of the Rangers gaining momentum with a 1-0 lead it was a 1-0 deficit on that muffed play.

Should St. Louis even be on the Power Play at all or moved to second unit?

Maybe Alain Vigneault should either move Miller or Hayes up to the top unit and St. Louis down to the second power play unit with Nash and Hayes/Miller with Ryan McDonagh and Keith Yandle on the point. If he were taken off the Power Play altogether and replaced with Dominic Moore or Carl Hagelin that could provide a different and more energetic look. Both of whom are playing well right now and bring something to the table.

If Rick Nash goes on a hot streak the Rangers could win this series quickly.

Nash and MSL

Nash and MSL

It is true that Rick Nash has to be better but this Ranger team can win with the way he is playing right now. They could have won a game or two more had Nash gotten on the scoreboard but the offense does not run solely through him. The Rangers depth is their strength just as much as their speed, defense, experience, and resiliency. The core players Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Mcdonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Derick Brassard, and Chris Kreider are the present and the future of this Rangers team.

There is much room for improvement on the part of Rick Nash. For a player that is so good with the puck in small spaces, there is a lot more he can do. I have seen Kreider go to the net and get rewarded a few times already in these playoffs. The same way that Nash did during the regular season and he needs to do more of that in these playoffs rather than skating to the outside. Nash is a great skater and he has a lot of tools and tricks for beating defenders with the puck and to the net. He just has to be willing to pay the price more often than he does.

Related Zuccarello Traveling To Tampa Bay, Not Yet ready

That shouldn’t be a problem for Rick Nash given the way he has played through the 15 games so far. He is throwing his body around and making defensive plays that lead to rushes the other way. It’s time Nash begin scoring some goals but the Rangers can win with the way Nash is playing. They need some more timely scoring from throughout the lineup. Carl Hagelin can do more as well as Kevin Hayes and JT Miller. All three have played well but are capable of more. The Rangers stand little chance if Martin St. Louis continued to put up zeros and make bad mistakes.