If freshly acquired forward Rick Nash proves to be the New York Rangers’ answer to Ilya Kovalchuk, Nash's new employers should be set to rebound from their late May loss to Kovalchuk’s Devils and make the next playoff stride.
One of the primary qualms that comes with bringing Nash onto a Stanley Cup contender is the fact that he has only four games of NHL playoff experience through nearly a decade in the league.
But while it offers no tangible assurance, Kovalchuk’s own saga at least confirms that an elite scorer can hit the ice sprinting when he is finally transferred to a team that expects a lengthy postseason.
Kovalchuk came to New Jersey in a February 2010 deal after eight-plus years and one fleeting playoff dip with the Atlanta Thrashers. His second season transcript at the time consisted of four games, all losses to the Rangers in the first round of the 2007 tournament.
Yet he led his new team with six points in five games before they were eliminated by the Flyers in the opening round of the 2010 postseason.
After the team ducked out of the playoff picture for one year, Kovalchuk topped the Devils’ postseason charts again in 2012 with eight goals and 11 assists as part of a run to the Stanley Cup final.
Nash’s path from an end-of-the-century expansion franchise to a New York City metropolitan team is practically the fraternal twin to Kovalchuk’s. With the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nash has mustered all of four playoff games in his career, all of them in a sweep at the hands of Detroit in 2009.
However, after what might start as a bit of baptismal fire on Broadway, Nash should be entering a situation that might even be more favorable than Kovalchuk’s arrangement.
The Rangers reigning leading scorer, Marian Gaborik, is expected to miss the first portion of the 2012-13 season as he recovers from surgery. But by the time teams are coming under true judgment in late winter and spring, he should join Nash and Brad Richards as the Blueshirts’ presumptive top-three producers.
Supplementing them will be rising scorers Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan, along with a not-so-plebeian producer in captain Ryan Callahan
According to his scouting report from the ever-authoritative Hockey News, Nash’s primary shortcoming is that he “Can go into scoring droughts, quite often when he tries to do too much on his own—instead of trusting his teammates.”
In fairness, who has he had other than RJ Umberger that he could consistently trust in Columbus?
It will be a different story with the Rangers, who, if they had preferred, probably could have afforded to stand pat and let their younger, homegrown scorers mature to shore up the offense.
Instead, they made a pledge to win now by reeling in Nash and his certified scoring prowess out of the small pond in Columbus. And they still managed to retain each of their top five scoring forwards as well as Kreider, who will embark on his first regular season after tallying a 5-2-7 log in 18 playoff outings.
With a more promising cast of colleagues, there is no reason why Nash cannot assimilate into the more intense metropolitan market, transition from a playoff no-show to a Cup contender and translate his success as smoothly as Kovalchuk has.