Every NHL pundit knows that the New York Rangers’ Rick Nash likes to shoot. Blue line, face- off circle, point blank, it doesn’t matter, give Nash some space and he will find a way to put the puck on goal.
Although this mindset has led to a fair amount of past success for the 6-foot-two-inch forward, 220 pound forward, the numbers Nash is putting up this year, have never been seen before in his 12 year NHL career.
At the All-Star break Nash leads the NHL with 28 goalsthrough 44 games while also dishing out 15 assists. His dominance of the offensive side of the ice has lead the Rangers to a combined 16-5 record through the months of December and January to date, after they struggled to stay at the .500 mark through the first two months of the season.
The transcendence of Nash has given the defensive minded Rangers, who scored a mere 2.56 goals per contest on their way to the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Finals, a multidimensional approach to beating teams. In the 2013-14 season, the Rangers relied heavily on All Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to keep them in most games until their offense was able to find the net just enough to win. However, as the 2014 Stanley Cup matchup with the heavily favored LA Kings showed, the Rangers were exposed for their less than inspired offensive performance, blowing two goal leads in the first two contests and scoring a grand total of zero third period goals on their way to a five game defeat at the hands of the Kings.
Although last year’s disappointment may still be in the back of Ranger’s fans’ heads, their 134goals scored to date, which is well ahead of last year’s season total of 218, has given fans a ray of offensive hope that when playoff time comes around, they will no longer have to rely on 45 save performances by Lundqvist to win games when they matter the most.
The center piece for this optimism is Nash, who has not only given the Rangers a much needed physical presence in front of the net, but also his ability to create scoring opportunities for his teammates by virtue of his 162 shots on goal. These shots not only find the back of the net with regularity as evinced by Nash’s 17.3 shooting percentage, but also create rebound opportunities for Ranger speedsters like Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin who feed off of these rebounds when the Rangers are in odd man breaks.
Nash holds the keys to success for the Rangers second half push to the Cup. If his numbers match those of the first half, NHL fans should be put on alert that Cup contenders will need to navigate the bright lights of New York, and the strong wrist of Nash, if they are to stake their claim for NHL glory.