Rangers Vs. Bruins: Rick Nash's Time Is Now
The Rangers star forward needs to find his game in the second round.
Opportunities are sometimes born from second chances.
Rick Nash was probably mentally preparing for the onslaught that was coming. As the Washington Capitals waltzed off the Verizon Center ice after Mike Ribeiro's overtime game-winning goal to give the Capitals a 3-2 series lead who could have blamed him? Nash hadn't scored a single goal in the series. And today, after the New York Rangers staged a remarkable two-game defensive show to best the Capitals in seven games, Nash still hasn't hit the scoresheet with a goal.
But that's almost sort of not the point right now. Winning has a funny was of masking problems. Winning has a funny way of erasing the past. And now that the Rangers are through to the second round of the NHL Playoffs, not only do they have a clean slate but so too does their star sniper.
Nash was so much better in Games 6 and 7 it almost makes you wonder if he actually is injured. In Game 6 he was screening Braden Holtby for Derick Brassard's precious game-winning goal. He was also a constant presence in Game 7, earned an assist, and had another one of those "impacts the game without scoring" games. They were consistent in the beginning of the year before Nash, well, starting scoring -- he finished the season on a 39-goal pace despite the slow start.
But all those numbers can be stored away now, that is, of course, unless it continues in the second round.
Think about all of the Rangers biggest success stories this year? Removing the emergence of Derek Stepan it would have to be Brassard, John Moore and then Mats Zuccarello in that order. The similarities between the three? They all got second chances with the Rangers.
Zuccarello was brought back for his second stint in the NHL after a year in the KHL. I think that year in the KHL really helped him develop into a better player. Moore is finally getting an opportunity to show off what type of defenseman he really is. He's getting bigger minutes, he's playing on the point in the power play and he's playing in a more offensive role. There was no room for him to do those things in Columbus. There probably would be a ton of room now.
Then, of course, there's the Rangers' first-round hero Brassard. After going scoreless in the first two games of the playoffs he reeled off two goals and seven assists for nine points in the final five games. That included a fantastic three-point performance in a must-win Game 3, two jaw-dropping assists in Game 4, the game-winning goal in Game 6 and two assists in Game 7.
So consider Thursday the beginning of Nash's second chance. I think a lot of the reactions to Nash's first round performance aren't exactly fair. Yes, he's the guy who is supposed to be scoring goals, so some blame has to fall on his shoulders. But Arron Asham scored as many goals as Ryan Callahan, Nash and Alex Ovechkin combined in the first round. It wasn't just Nash who wasn't scoring. And it certianly wasn't just Nash's fault that the power play was an incredible 2-for-27 in the series.
Remember, Nash was an animal in Game 1 (he had eight shots on goal), he hit the post with nine minutes left in Game 2, he recorded an assist in Game 3 and he came alive in Games 6 and 7. There are a lot of "what ifs" when it comes to Nash's first seven playoff games as a Ranger. Those get erased too if he can find his game in the second round.
The Rangers made serious strides to get out of the first round after going down 0-2 in the series. Brassard and Zuccarello were a huge part of the offensive outburst to get the Rangers over the hump. Moore stepped up in a big way with Marc Staal out. The Rangers as a whole came together. Henrik Lundqvist was Henrik Lundqvist.
Now it's Nash's turn to find himself in the playoffs. This is his second chance.
It's time to use it.