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New York Rangers Need Rick Nash to Find His All-Star Form

January 2nd, 2014 at 9:20 PM
By Ricky Cibrano

'Rangers Vs. Washington Capitals 9/24/09 Madison Square Garden' photo (c) 2009, Bari D - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
The New York Rangers–they of the 4th worst in the league 2.27 goals per game–have one offensive ace in the hole–Rick Nash.

Problems is, so far the ace has played more like a 9 of clubs–not bad, but nothing to get excited over. Nash has 7 goals and 9 assists in 24 games played, good for 7th on the team in points. Missing 17 games with a concussion earlier in the year factors into his low standing on the teams point list, but the fact is, right now the Big Smooth is on pace for a sub-par 19 goals in 65 games.

It's not as if he's not trying. Nash, despite the missed time, is 3rd on the team with 92 shots on goal. The puck just simply isn't going in–the southpaw is sporting a career worst 7.6 shooting percentage, well below his career average of 12.5.

Shooting percentage is a fickle stat that largely fluctuates with dumb luck, but over time, typically reverts back to a players norm–which is good news for Nash. Case in point: Washington's Alex Ovechkin was recently scoreless in 4 straight, but fired 31 shots on net in that time. Earlier this year, Ovechkin scored 4 goals in a game on just 6 shots. Add those two extremes together, and it amounts to roughly the Great 8's career average shooting percentage. These streaks have a tendency to balance themselves out.

In other words, Nash is due. As long as he keeps averaging nearly 4 shots a game, he will eventually break through. But the Rangers can nary afford to get another 3 goal month out of Nash like December, because there simply isn't anyone else to rely on to consistently light the lamp.

Some of Nash's struggles come from the attention he draws from opposing teams, some of it stems from a lack of top-end players surrounding him. Yet neither was enough to slow him down last season, when he scored 21 goals in 44 games, or when he twice topped 40 on offensively-challenged Columbus teams.

Some of it's on Nash too. While the shots have been there, they haven't necessarily all been of quality. And, in what's an alarming trend, in the 6 games Nash has played against Metropolitan Division foes, he has no goals and just one point. With the downtrodden Met division representing their easiest path to the playoffs, the Blueshirts desperately need their biggest gun to be at his best for those moneyball divisional matchups.

One thing Alain Vigneault could do to try and spark his slumping star is place him on a line with Mats Zuccarello. After an early drought, Zuccarello has been one of the Rangers few consistent performers up front this season, and has emerged as the teams most creative playmaker and leading scorer.

A Nash-Stepan-Zuccarello trio with the big man on his off wing could prove effective for the Blueshirts, especially after Nash and Derek Stepan, who's been struggling as well, have showed some life playing together the last few games. 

Regardless of who he's playing with, or on what side, Nash's fortunes and that of his employer are strongly tied–as he goes, so go the Rangers.


Notes

-Taylor Pyatt was claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Penguins–who the Rangers play tomorrow–setting the stage for him to somehow score against his former team.

-The Rangers signed 2013 third-round pick Anthony Duclair to an entry-level deal today. The lefty has 31 goals and 26 assists in 37 games this season for the Quebec Repmarts of the QMJHL, and is said to possess excellent speed.

Tags: Alain Vigneault, Alex Ovechkin, Derek Stepan, Hockey, Mats Zuccarello, New York, New York Rangers, NHL, Rick Nash

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