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There Are Bigger Problems Than Rick Nash

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Rick Nash is getting all the heat. Too bad he doesn't deserve it.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

You know the feeling when you're watching a horror movie and you know exactly what's going to happen?

*Guy who happens to be alone in a creepy house hears a noise in the basement*

That guy: You know, I traveled to this isolated location by myself, there's no cell reception and I'm about 10 miles from the next closest person who could possibly come help me. But that noise is really interesting so I should go check it out.

You know what happens. He goes into the basement, finds something crazy and then he dies. It happens every time, and yet in every horror movie that guys keeps going into the basement and keeps dying.

Right now it's almost like Rangers fans are standing outside the basement door. They heard the noise and they're curious. Last night when Nash didn't score again, they grabbed the doorknob and started turning it.

My reaction? Noooooooooooooooooooooo!

I do understand the frustration -- and I feel it as well. At the end of the day, this is a bottom-line league with bottom-line expectations. Nash is paid $7.8-million a year to be a guy who the Rangers can rely on for offense and fans look at his lack of goals as a sign that he's not doing his job.

Most of the time, especially when dealing with a 42-goal scorer, people change "offense" to "goals" and in a way they're not wrong. That's Nash's role on this team, those are his expectations and it's absolutely fair to point at Nash and say "one goal through eight playoff games is not enough."

But in a way that's also missing a major point: Nash has been the Rangers best forward in this series and it isn't even close. In Game 3 (the game that really started the hate wave) Nash had 15 shot attempts and seven on net -- the Capitals as a team has 22 shots in the game. Nash was a monster in the neutral zone and made a brilliant diving backcheck to break up a golden chance for the Capitals. Nash was physical and he threw his weight around in front of the net.

Even with his statsheet the way it was, Nash was the best player on the ice in Game 3, for either team. And yet he didn't score, so to some he sucks. In Game 2 Nash didn't score, so he sucked then too, which conveniently ignores the fact that he created the Derick Brassard game-winning goal and his screen on Braden Holtby is the only reason Dan Boyle's goal went into the back of the net, too.

As an objective observer you can't look at the lack of goals Nash has scored and ignore the goals he's helped go in (without physically scoring them) and the impact he's had on the game. Keep in mind, too, ever since Mats Zuccarello went down Nash has had to carry about Martin St. Louis' dead weight.

So, yes, it's fair to say the Rangers need more from Nash in terms of raw scoring. But to say he's been nothing but a negative aspect to the team -- and that he's the reason the Rangers are down 2-1 in this series -- is borderline insanity.

The more fans spew their venom at Nash the more they miss the bigger problems. The two biggest (hint, it has nothing to do with faceoffs or the power play)? Vigneault getting his lunch handed to him by Barry Trotz in player matchups and the decline of St. Louis.

The fourth line is a disaster on display in this series. They didn't get destroyed against the Penguins because Pittsburgh had about as much bottom six depth as your club hockey team does. Washington has players on the bottom six who can play hockey and they're demolishing the fourth line consistently. Dominic Moore aside, Tanner Glass has been worse than awful and James Sheppard isn't far behind him. The solution seems easy enough: sit Glass for Ryan Bourque. Seriously, it can't be any worse.

But that's only half the issue. Vigneault has far too often forced Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle to cover Alex Ovechkin. And more often than not either the fourth line or the Kevin Hayes line is out there with them. On the road that's inevitably going to happen every now and again, but to have it happen at home (and multiple times when it could have been avoided on the road) is a serious problem. The fourth line getting a look in crunch time (less than five minutes left and down a goal) just continues the delusion of their effectiveness.

As for St. Louis, I really think we're watching his last games on Broadway. For the life of me I can't see much of a reason why the Rangers would go out of their way to make him fit in their shrinking cap over the summer. I understand this is presumptuous right now, but St. Louis has clearly lost a step. Or he's injured. (For what it's worth, I don't think he's injured.)

Game 3 was St. Louis' best game of the playoffs and it was still a mile away from where he needs to be. Nash might only have one goal, but at least he has a team-leading five points. St. Louis has two assists and a slew of horrible turnovers and mistakes.

What's worse is Vigneault has gone way out of his way to protect him, seemingly placing blame on Derick Brassard of all people for not getting Nash and St. Louis going. From his presser yesterday (and my response):

For Nash? The anger machine revs up to impossible decibels, firing off insanity and bile at am exaggerated rate. For both Vigneault and St. Louis the anger machine is nothing more than a minor groan in the background. If you're not paying attention you might not hear it at all.

That's not fair to Nash, even admitting he needs to be better.

And as of right now both Vigneault and St. Louis seem to be the last thing anyone is talking about. I just hope they realize it's because the bulletproof vests they're wearing are made from Nash's perceived lack of value and not because they don't deserve the fire.