Since coming over from Columbus, Rick Nash has shown flashes of what made him one of the league’s best finishers. He still overcame concussions to lead the Rangers in goal scoring his first two seasons. After notching 21 last year, he tallied 26 with many coming in crunch time. Despite missing 17 games, he also led the club with nine game-winners. Starting tonight in a pivotal Game 3 with the first round series tied, the Rangers need him big time.
It’s no secret Nash has struggled to finish for the Blueshirts in the postseason. Held to just one goal in 12 games last year, he is 0 for 2 so far against the Flyers. He’s still managed to get on the score sheet registering assists in the first two games. In Game 2, he combined with Derek Stepan to set up Martin St. Louis for a goal at even strength. So far, he leads the Rangers with 13 shots. Playing with Stepan and St. Louis, he’s definitely gotten his looks. When he gets chances, he needs to bury them.
One goal in his first 14 postseason games isn’t going to cut it. In Game 1, I felt he was one of their best players registering seven shots with many dangerous. His best opportunity in Game 2 came off a Flyer turnover in front of the net. But he fired the puck into Ray Emery, who also denied John Moore. When your most lethal finisher gets point blank chances, you expect him to light the lamp.
Nash has looked more comfortable this year. He’s delivered in the clutch all season and even chipped in on the penalty kill scoring two shorthanded goals. Alain Vigneault has trusted him more than John Tortorella. With that comes more responsibility. Since Ryan Callahan was traded for St. Louis, Nash has taken on a bigger leadership role. His scrap against his former team sparked a comeback win. From that point, he was a different player.
The Rangers are counting on him to deliver. Especially if the Flyers are going to continue their annual march to the penalty box. Nash hasn’t scored a power play goal in his last 30 games. The last time he got one was all the way back on Jan. 26 in the Rangers Stadium Series win over the Devils. Of his 26 goals, only three came on the man-advantage. That trend can’t continue.
In Game 2, the Rangers didn’t make the Flyers pay. They went 1 for 6 on the power play with only Benoit Pouliot coming through to put them up 2-0. Philadelphia responded by scoring four unanswered to earn a split at MSG. They kept handing the Rangers opportunities but no one finished. They were 0 for their last 4 including a critical power failure early in the third trailing by one.
Thus far, special teams have determined both games. The Flyers went 2 for 3 highlighting their win including Luke Schenn’s power play tally. It came on a Pouliot delayed penalty with them able to capitalize 6 on 5. Henrik Lundqvist let out a juicy rebound of an Adam Hall shot which Schenn pounced on. Along with Nash, he must be better. The Rangers’ best players have to step up with the series shifting to what will be a hostile environment at Wells Fargo Center. We’ll see what their made of starting tonight.