There is easily no Rangers player more polarizing than Rick Nash. There’s a large segment of the Rangers fan who’d somehow find fault in the All Star forward if he scored a hat trick, while others continue to find excuses for his lack of playoff scoring prowess.
I think the truth about Nash’s tenure on Broadway probably lies somewhere in the middle, but if the Rangers have any chance of getting past the Flyers he needs to start finding the back of the net beginning this afternoon.
Here’s Vigneault on his hulking forward…
“Rick really wants to do well, and he’s trying every shift he’s on the ice to put his best foot forward. It’s a tough league. The opposition, when you have an elite player like that, obviously has a plan. He’s got to keep working. He’s got to try to elevate his game. He knows he’s a big part of us having success, winning games and moving forward,” Vigneault said after practice yesterday. “The one thing I don’t have doubt about him is his willingness.
“It’s his time. It’s our team’s time. This is a team game. He’s a big part of that, and he’s trying to do his best.”
…Nash’s relationship with Rangers Nation very much reminds me of how Carlos Beltran’s was with Mets fans. Both had/have their efforts questioned, while their production was/is never enough. If you talk to a Mets fan about Beltran’s tenure in New York, you’ll likely get a lukewarm response. He was never fully embraced as, despite leading the Mets to the playoffs in 2006, winning a three Gold Gloves, being named an All Star five times and breaking the franchise record for homeruns in a season with 41, he’ll always be remembered for taking that called third strike against Adam Wainwright in the 2006 National League Championship Series.
…meanwhile, Nash has been framed as un-clutch (nine game winning goals this season), unemotional (not everyone plays with their heart on their sleeve) and accused of not using his size to drive to the net often enough (the below chart proves otherwise)…
…but to me, the biggest issue with Nash is that while we’ve seen glimpses of him in full beast mode (see Columbus game), for whatever reason, that fire doesn’t seem to burn every night. Sure, he can get by with a solid season on skill alone, but without that desire to take his game to the next level on a consistent basis he’ll never play up to his potential nor win over the Rangers fan base.
…we love hard working players who lay it all on the line every night. It’s why many Garden Faithful actually disapproved trading away a blood, sweat and tears captain for a 30+ goal, former Hart Trophy winner at this year’s trade deadline or why you’ll still hear fans hope the Rangers will somehow re-acquire players such as Dubinsky, Prust and Avery. Those kind of players are put on a pedestal in New York. And deservedly so.
…Nash apologists can show me every “fancy stat” out there to prove he’s had a solid season, but I trust my eyes and what they’re seeing out on the ice is a highly talented player who is giving just enough to be effective, but very rarely willing to give more. The final two minutes of Game 4 prove that. And that my friends is the reason why one of the great regular season scorers of this generation has TWO playoff goals in 20 career playoff games. When nothing short of the performance he exhibited in Columbus is acceptable in the postseason, he’s fallen woefully short.
…having said that, with a single spirited effort in this afternoon’s Game 5 the above perception of Nash will immediately begin to dissipate and the fans who are somehow calling for him to be bought out over Brad Richards (loonesy) will begin to embrace him in a New York minute.