How Rick Nash Can Win Back the Garden Faithful
If Rick Nash wants the recipe for winning over his home town fans, he probably doesn’t have to look much further than to controversial New York Yankees’ slugger Alex Rodriguez for the answer.
No, Nash doesn’t carry the steroid history or league suspensions following him around like A-Rod does; in fact, Nash appears to be almost the opposite personality. But what the two superstars do have in common is this: they both have a history of putting together stellar regular seasons only to falter in the postseason when their teams need them most, when their game is under the microscope, and fans are most critical.
Remember A-Rod’s two regular-season MVP awards with the Yankees? Some may, but most point to his postseason struggles prior to 2009 when he led the Bronx Bombers to the World Series title by slugging six home runs and driving in 18 runs. After that, (legal issues aside), he was looked at much differently and held in higher regard by many Yankees’ fans.
The same is true for Nash, who you remember forced his way out of Columbus in a trade to the Rangers that saw popular Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov head to the Blue Jackets along with defense prospect Tim Erixon and a 2013 first-round draft pick.
In 109 regular-season games for the Rangers since arriving on Broadway, Nash has scored a more than respectable 47 goals, including a team-high 26 last season, to go along with 34 assists. The postseason numbers, however, tell a different story. Nash has scored just four goals and added 11 assists in 37 playoff games for the Blueshirts, including just three goals and 10 points during the Rangers’ 25-game run to the Stanley Cup finals this spring.
While Nash contributed to the Rangers’ Cup run in other ways (penalty kill, shot blocking, solid defensive play), the Garden faithful will only move back on his side when he starts putting the puck in the net during the postseason. Regular-season numbers are fine, but the true test comes when the pressure is on in the postseason, like when the Rangers needed a big overtime goal that didn’t come in one of the three OT losses to the Kings in the Stanley Cup final. This is when fans look to the big-money goal-scorer that is Nash, and when that goal doesn’t come, his popularity in the blue seats suffers.
Nash begins a new chapter in his hockey career this spring as he stares at life after the age of the 30 and the realization that the Rangers may not be as strong as they were last season (while the Blue Jackets appear on their way up in the standings with Dubinsky helping lead the way) when they came within three games of winning the Stanley Cup. His goal, like all hockey players, is to lift hockey’s Holy Grail before hanging up his skates and he’d love to do it under the bright lights of Broadway.
In the meantime, Nash must continue to lead the way offensively during the regular season and then find a way to carry that over into the postseason. If he can put a postseason run of goals together the way A-Rod found his swing in the 2009 World Series, chances are Rangers’ fans will soon forgive and forget and lead the cheers for the “Big Easy.”