Yesterday Rick Nash was in the zone, the “Kill Zone”

Rick Nash (CAL SPORT MEDIA/ZUMA PRESS)

Rick Nash NYR (Hockey News)

Rick Nash NYR (Hockey News)

Rick Nash was a force yesterday, and although he didn’t score a goal he played a key role on the Rangers power play marker. For the playoffs that was the first goal the Capitals have given up on the man advantage in 9 games this post season. It was all due to Nash who stood in front of Braden Holtby and screened him from stopping a fairly harmless shot from the point by Dan Boyle.

Nash’s performance was even far more promising than that and one that we need to see much more of moving forward. The Kill Zone (KZ) is an area of the ice that I like to focus on, especially in the playoffs because at this time of year, you’ll see more dirty hard working goals then coast to coasters like Alex Ovechkin‘s tally yesterday.

The Kill Zone started as a rectangle just below the dots on the circle and extended out and down. Speaking with Stephen Valiquette, he advised to bring the lines closer to the goal because a score down low and that far out means the goalie was off his angle and not a very good goal. So now, the KZ resembles a pyramid missing it’s top. Bigger than the Yellow Shot area of Valiquette’s Royal Road, less than Sportsnet’s “Home Plate and much smaller than the area designated on War-On-Ice.

Why is this important? According to War-On-Ice, that box area (middle image below dark green) in front of the goal accounts for approximately 49.64% of goals scored this year. The entire lighter green dotted area outside of it is an additional 31%. That’s over 80% of goals scored in this dotted line region. The KZ is obviously tighter and a lot less area, so taking this information and accounting for about 25% of the area outside of the box in the KZ, we can safely assume that the KZ would be about 55-58% of all goals scored in the league for the 2014-15 regular season. See the importance growing? It means more in the post-season.

The Rangers score more goals in that box area, 50.83% and 29.6% for that red shaded area (image above far left). That means it would be almost 60% of Rangers goals in the Kill Zone.

Nash playoffs heat map thru 5/3/15 (SportingCharts)

Nash playoffs heat map thru 5/3/15 (SportingCharts)

So what does all this information have to do with Rick Nash? For the 2015 playoffs, Nash had 21 shots heading into game 2. Only 5 of those were in the KZ area, just 23% of his shots were in that key area of the ice. Matter of fact, his only goal of the playoffs game in the KZ, so we know he has to get off the perimeter.

Yesterday, Nash added 4 shots to his playoff totals and all 4 were in the KZ. He was an absolute beast in front and was the key reason why the Capitals gave up their 1st power play goal. After yesterday, Nash has boosted his KZ shots to 36% of his total shots and the Rangers scored more than 2 goals for only the second time this post season. The Rangers need more of this from #61.

 

Nash must continue to play gritty (Getty Images)

Nash must continue to play gritty (Getty Images)

 

When Nash was most effective this season, he was using his size and speed to get in tight and score. When you think of the prototypical Nash goal, it begins with him coming down the right side with speed, cutting left to the goal and firing it past a prone goalie’s right side.

Nash goals 2015 (SportingCharts)

Nash goals 2015 (SportingCharts)

In the playoffs, the checking is much harder and requires more goals where you drive to the net without the puck looking to cause a screen or pouncing on a rebound, just like Chris Kreider did yesterday.

If you need more evidence, here it is. Nash scored 42 goals this season and 28 were in the Kill Zone. That’s 66% of his goals this year and proof positive that if Nash wants to slay this playoff demon, this is where he will find the ammunition to do so.

Mike Milbury called Nash “marshmallow soft” during NBCSN’s game one telecast. Yesterday, that couldn’t be further from the truth and the Rangers evened the series. Going forward, the Blueshirts need more “Grit” and less “Flash” from their most important player not named Henrik Lundqvist.