2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Sans the goals, Rick Nash making a huge impact for the Rangers

Bruce Bennett

Rick Nash has had a really strong three games this playoffs, not a large sample size, but certainly nothing that tells us he's playing poorly.

Goals are good. That's a pretty easy consensus to come to among hockey minds. Scoring more goals than the other team is paramount. Again, this is overly simplifying some already pretty basic concepts, but let's just air them out for argument's sake.

Now let's talk about Rick Nash.

Players that are brought into New York having already experienced success in other cities have heightened expectations, which sometimes clout when they're actually performing pretty well. Nash's tenure in New York has been marked by stops-and-starts thanks to injuries, but pretty good efficiency when he's on the ice. In 111 games as a Ranger, he's scored 47 goals, or 0.42 per contest. Extrapolate that over a full season, and you're right in that 35 goal ballpark.

But when Nash isn't scoring goals, it doesn't mean he's not producing, and the team isn't getting valuable contributions from its 6-foot-4 power forward.

The first three games of this postseason are a perfect example. To start out, it's a criminally low sample size. Even if Nash wasn't playing well (and we're about to get into why he is), it would be useless to judge him based off not even half a series.

Again though, let's look at Nash's three games, which, have undeniably been active and efficient.

First, via Extra Skater:

Screen_shot_2014-04-23_at_1.22.11_pm_medium

If the fancy stats explanation isn't your cup if tea, let's simplify it even further. Through these first three games, Nash's has three assists, and 18 shots on goal. His obvious sh% of 0 is bound to regress. If it approaches his career average of 12.7, and he continues to register five shots a game—maybe a high number, but within what he's currently been showing—a 20-game postseason would yield around 12 goals.

What that's meant to illuminate is, whether it's been a good save by Ray Emery, a bad angle shot, or just puck luck (if that's a thing you believe in), Nash falls somewhere in between the range of zero goals scored, and over 0.5 goals per game. Statistically, what Nash is doing is still very strong, even without finding the back of the net. By logical, statistical metrics though, goals is the next item in the equation for Nash. His six shots on goal per game lead all skaters in the postseason. He's been active, involved, and a major contributor to the Rangers' brief postseason stint thus far, even if he's riding a goose egg in the goals scored column.

There's no reason to make snap-judgements on Nash, especially when they're not even informed, grounded judgements.

Nash is using elements of his game that really excite fans. Mainly, his size and physicality, which blended with his skill make him such a unique player.

Nash_work_medium

I saw someone say the Columbus game was about the worst thing that Nash could have done as far as fan perception. It will be difficult to find another setting where he'll display that same level of fire or emotion as that night. But that's 'OK.' If Nash continues to be a dominant player in possession, putting up a point per game, and six shots on goals, both he and the Rangers should be absolutely fine.

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