Rick Nash's Production Critical to NY Rangers' Playoff Hopes

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IFebruary 28, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 20:  Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on January 20, 2013 in New York City. The Penguins defeated the Rangers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New York Rangers traded for Rick Nash to give themselves a boost on offense, but not much has changed since last season. Not only are the Blueshirts struggling to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but Nash has not been the explosive offensive force fans and general manager Glen Sather hoped he would be.

This season, Nash has tallied just three goals and nine assists for 12 points. His ability to find open teammates has been admirable, but he has had a hard time getting the puck past the goalie despite being third on the team with 57 shots on goal.

Keep in mind that in nine seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nash scored 289 goals and tallied 258 assists for a total of 547 points. Not only was he a fine playmaker, but he was the team's best scorer as well.

Simply put, the Rangers need Nash to be more aggressive for the remainder of the season if they are to get back to the playoffs and make a statement there. ESPN projects Nash as scoring just six more goals at his current pace, and that number needs to be higher. The Rangers rank just 23rd in goals per game at 2.4, and they aren't going to climb any higher in the standings nor make the playoffs unless that total rises.

This means that along with teammate Brad Richards, Nash needs to be more aggressive on the offensive side. He must demand the puck and fight past defenders to get shots off.

Even if he doesn't have a clear path, he must take a shot anyway. Granted, Nash has been taking shots, but the only way he'll up his goal total is if he keeps that up regardless of how many opposing players are in his way.

Otherwise, the Rangers are bound to underachieve and trading key players in Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov for Nash will look like a bad move. Granted, neither man has been amazingly good for Columbus this year, but the fact is they fit head coach John Tortorella's system well and it was sad to see them go.

Either way, the facts are simple. The Rangers have a roster capable of going far in the playoffs, but that's not going to happen unless Nash turns on the afterburners and becomes the force on offense that his teammates and coaches need him to be.

With the lockout-shortened season starting to wind down, that had better happen soon.