During these playoffs, Rick Nash has taken his game to another level. Most people who follow this Rangers team have not seen this level of play from him since he came to New York. But what magic he has created in all three zones since Game 1. This is the Rick Nash the Blueshirt faithful have been waiting for. So, why such a sudden outbreak?
Rick Nash’s confidence is back. It shows in the style of his game. Every shift he wants the puck on his stick. Ever since he was traded to New York in the 2012-13 season, he was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle. The great goal scorer that would come up clutch in the playoffs. But as it turned out, Nash disappeared during the first couple of playoff runs with this club. He only had one year with multiple points in the playoffs and that was in the 2014-15 season. Nash has also battled multiple upper body injuries throughout his time in New York and that does not help the confidence of a player. If anything, it will make someone shy up from a hit or play. Well, that is all in the past and fans are seeing the retro Rick Nash. Any time he is in the high slot in the offensive zone, he shoots. During these playoffs, Nash has kept Montreal netminder Carey Price guessing. He has three points through five games and two of them are goals. In a series where scoring is a premium, two goals are a lot. Confidence is just as important as anything else.
Rick Nash – Going Hard to the Net
When Nash has the puck, he is not afraid to make a mistake or get hit anymore. He is back to the power forward the Rangers originally wanted. A great example of this would be the game-tying goal in Game 5 in Montreal. Nash created a play and drove hard to the net. Brady Skjei finished off the play by putting the puck past Carey Price but the whole play was set up by Nash. Even his game-winning goal in Game 4 was a pure power move. He used his body to shield the puck and go hard to the net. His big six foot four inch and 220-pound frame makes this possible. He goes to the dirty areas and it is just what the doctor ordered to make a deep playoff push for this club.
Playing in all Three Zones
What most people now see in Rick Nash is his defensive game. The Rangers have turned him into a player that will start to kill penalties and one who is very responsible in all three zones. When called upon, he will kill penalties for this team. It has not happened a lot this year but when he does, he does it perfectly. Being responsible for all three zones means that he can play offense, defense, and can pick up players and close down opposing passing lanes in the neutral zone. In the offensive zone, Nash goes right for the puck and hard to the net. He creates many scoring chances for his team. In the neutral zone, he picks up opposing players in transition and will pick up the man on the back check. His big body, again, lets him close passing lanes in the neutral zone. This is key for good team defense. Lastly, in the defensive zone, he will pick up the guys and battle hard for the puck. His game has changed into a more well-rounded game. Rick Nash has truly taken his game to the next level.
So Far So Good
As the playoffs continue to move along, Rich Nash will be an important part of this club. Experts talk about taking your game to the next level in the playoffs and in this case Rick Nash certainly has. He has found that extra gear and he looks amazing out on the ice. It is what this Rangers team needed right from the start. Keep doing what you are doing Mr. Nash and hopefully this year it will pay off with a win for the ages.
I am a college student covering the New York Rangers. Creator of The Hockey 411 podcast and website. Follow me on Twitter @thehockey411 to get my opinion on all things NHL!