NY Rangers: 8 Predictions for Rick Nash in His First Season in New York
For a team that was two wins away from getting to the Stanley Cup Finals, to adding an elite player, the Rangers will enter next season as one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Nash, one of the best scorers in the league, should help a pedestrian Rangers offense that was stagnant at times during the playoffs and regular season.
Nash is seen as the missing piece of the puzzle. He is the elite, dangerous scorer that the Rangers have been missing.
What will Nash do? Will he exceed expectations and help the Rangers to a Stanley Cup? Or will he be a Broadway Bust?
Read on to find out what we think Nash will do in his first season in Blue.
Rick Nash is an elite goal scorer. Over the course of his career, he's averaged 32 goals per season, with a career high of 41. Last season, he netted 30.
And he did that while playing with mediocre talent on some pretty bad teams in Columbus. He never had a true center who could get him the puck in prime scoring places.
Additionally, he's not "the guy" anymore. In Columbus, Nash was the sole focus of opposing defenses. That's not the case anymore.
When Marian Gaborik comes back from injury in November or December, there will be even less focus on Nash. For the first time in his career, he'll have room to score.
Forty goals is not out of the question, and he is certainly capable of scoring more. Like Gaborik, Nash will explode in his first season on Broadway.
10 Power Play Goals
Nash is terrific on the power play and should elevate a unit that finished 23rd in power play percentage.
Nash has averaged nine power play goals per season in his career, with a career high of 19.
In Columbus, Nash was the best player and defense could focus on making sure he didn't get the puck. They could pressure him and force him to pass it..
Now, in New York, he has a lot more talent to work with. Instead of Vinny Prospal as the main facilitator, Nash will have Brad Richards feeding him the puck. Prospal had 12 power play assists last season. Richards had 17, Michael Del Zotto had 13 and Derek Stepan had 12. For the first time, Nash has guys who can get him the puck.
Nash will also be playing with Ryan Callahan on the man advantage. Callahan led the team with 13 power play goals. Most of those goals were scored down low, off rebounds, in front of the goaltender. Nash likes to shoot, which should lead to more rebounds, and more chances for the Rangers.
Nash is so versatile that he can play on the point with his booming shot. He can control the puck on the side boards, or use his big body in front.
With players like Callahan, Richards, Del Zotto, Chris Kreider and Gaborik (when he returns), the Rangers should have a potent power play. Nash will be a big part of that.
Despite his reputation as a pure goal scorer, Nash can dish the puck too. He's averaged 29 assists per season and had 29 last season.
He's done that while playing with guys who can't exactly finish. The best scorer Nash has played with was Jeff Carter, and he was there for one half-season.
Nash is expected to play with Brad Richards. Richards had 25 goals last season, which would have been second on the Blue Jackets behind Nash. When Gaborik returns, Nash will have a 40-goal scorer to pass to as well.
Before Gaborik comes back, Nash might play with Chris Kreider, who, in the playoffs, showed signs of becoming an elite finisher.
If Nash plays with Carl Hagelin, he'll have a speedster who now has a full season under his belt. If he plays with Ryan Callahan, he'll have a hard-working forward who can score.
Nash took 306 shots last season, which would have been most on the Rangers. All those shots will lead to rebounds. If he plays with Hagelin, the Swede can use his speed to crash the net. The same goes for Callahan.
In fact, 30 assists might even be conservative. Playing with better linemates means more opportunities, and thus, more goals.
Rick and Richards
Rick Nash is expected to play with Brad Richards. There's no reason why the two shouldn't develop chemistry.
For the first time in his career, Nash will have an elite playmaker. That's what Richards is. He had 41 assists last season. For Columbus, Derrick Brassard had 27 helpers last season.
That's not to mention the defenseman. Michael Del Zotto had 31 assists, and Ryan McDonagh had 25. Del Zotto would have been the second-leading assist man on the Blue Jackets.
When Nash scored 41 goals in 2003-04, David Vyborny lead the team with 31 assists. Vyborny is a nice player, but he's nowhere near the player that Richards is.
Elite finishers need elite playmakers. Ovechkin has Backstrom. That's why Henrik Sedin is so valuable. That's why Joe Thornton turned Jonathan Cheechoo into a star for a season.
Nash and Richards should make beautiful music together. For years, Nash has scored a lot almost single-handedly. He finally has help. Richards will make Nash a better player and a more potent scorer. Watch out.
2 Shorthanded Goals
Nash was taken off the penalty kill in Columbus to conserve his minutes, but that doesn't mean he's not good at it.
Nash averages one-point-five shorthanders per year, and had two last year. He has a career high of five.
Nash even likes penalty killing (via The Columbus Dispatch):
"I enjoy penalty killing,” Nash said. “It’s fun. And obviously the statistics are true."
With Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko moving on via free agency, and Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky going to Columbus in the Nash trade, the Rangers need penalty killers. Nash can do that.
He can use his great speed on breakaways to score. In addition, at 6'4", he has a long reach, to deflect pucks out of the zone.
If Nash is paired with a defensive-minded forward like Ryan Callahan, then he might have more freedom to take some more chances to spring for a shorthanded opportunity.
The Rangers averaged 13 penalty kill minutes per game last season, which will give Nash plenty of opportunities a man down. Now that he should play more minutes, he'll score some shorties for the Blueshirts.
5 Game Winners
While playing in Columbus means most games don't matter, Rick Nash still finds a way to impact them positively.
Nash averages almost five game winners per season. Last season, he had two.
Of course, the Rangers are a much better team than the Jackets, and they will play in more tightly-contested games. The Rangers had 47 game winning goals last season, which was first in the league. In contrast, the Blue Jackets had only 25 game winners, good for 29th in the league.
Nash will have more chances to score a game winner. Brad Richards had nine game winners last season, which means that John Tortorella wants his big guys on the ice in big situations. Nash will have plenty of ice time when it matters most.
He'll have the opportunities, but it's up to Nash to deliver. Columbus has not had the expectations that this Rangers team has. Can Nash handle the pressure? We'll have to wait and see.
Nash and Kreider
See if you can spot the similarities. Player A is 6'3", 230 pounds and has speed to burn. Player B is 6'4', 216 pounds and has speed to burn.
If you guessed that Player A is Rick Nash, you're wrong! Player A is Chris Kreider. Player B is Nash.
The two are obviously similar in stature, and they have similar games. Both are big and fast and can change a game with a shot.
With Marian Gaborik out until at least November, Kreider has a good chance of playing on the first line with Nash. It would make a lot of sense.
It would be very hard to stop two power forwards on the ice at the same time. There will have to be some open ice. In addition, a line of Nash, Richards and Kreider is very, very fast.
If anything, Kreider should learn from Nash, which will make the playoff sensation better, faster.
The Rangers have developed a hard-working identity. They are tough and tenacious. Nash will have to fit into that identity.
By all accounts, Nash is a hard-working player. He had 104 hits. He does need to block shots more, as he only blocked 21 last year.
The big thing for Nash is the pressure. Playing in Columbus is not like playing in New York. Nash was brought in as the missing piece, the man to take the team from Eastern Conference runner-ups to Eastern Conference champs and beyond. Can he deal?
We don't know for sure. But there are some signs working in his favor. For one, Nash has played for Team Canada and had five points in seven games at the 2010 Olympics.
He's also been a captain before, so he knows how to deal with media.
The difference now, at least, is that he's not the only player expected to deliver. For years, Nash was the face of the franchise in Columbus. He won't be in New York. Henrik Lundqvist is the face. He's not "the guy". He's not the captain. He's just here to score.
If anything, it sounds like Nash is looking forward to joining the Rangers [via Yahoo!]:
''The main thing was looking at the (Rangers), looking at what they did over the last couple of years, something that I loved to be a part of and to help them out,'' Nash said. ''Hockey is truly a passion here, where they expect a championship-caliber team.
''They've done everything they can as an organization to put that together.''
If the pressure doesn't get to Nash, we're looking at a big season for the newest Ranger.