Rangers need Nash to step up in series

Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 4:53 PM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rick Nash said his self-evaluation following games includes looking at his scoring chances, his blocked shots, his hits -- the typical stats that give a good indication for how he played.

"But the main thing is you look at the score of the game," he said.

The New York Rangers lost Game 5, 2-1 in overtime, and are trailing the Washington Capitals in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals 3-2 in part because Nash, their leading goal-scorer in the regular season with 21, hasn't done enough to help them win. If he doesn't figure it out in Game 6 Sunday (4:30 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN), there's a good chance he won't get another opportunity this season.

Nash has no goals and one assist through the five games. He didn't have a shot on goal through regulation in Game 5 before registering two in overtime. He still leads the Rangers with 19 shots on goal, but eight of those came in Game 1.

As for his hits, Nash has been credited with eight in five games. Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello, the smallest player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at 5-foot-7, has 14.

Nash, who is 6-foot-4, has two blocked shots; Zuccarello has four.

"I had some chances, didn't get the job done, though," Nash said when asked how he thought he played in Game 5. "There's no excuses. I've got to find a way to do it."

He's finding that to be increasingly difficult to do because of the way the Capitals are playing him.

Nash has said repeatedly over the past several days that the Capitals are doing a good job of "shrinking the zone" on him by "collapsing their wingers." He said the way to beat that is to find the open man, because if Washington is running two defenders at him, then someone has to be open, but he hasn't been able to find that open man enough.

He did in Game 3, and it led to Derek Stepan's game-winning goal, but that assist is Nash's only point in the series. He said he was looking for the open man in Game 5, but the Rangers struggled to get sustained offense for good portions of the game because they lacked a consistent forecheck.

"We're trying to play him hard," Washington defenseman Karl Alzner said of Nash. "When he's in the corner, we're trying to give him a few shots."

Nash said he's felt it.

"There's not a lot of room," he said.

The one thing Nash isn't doing is showing any anger. He was asked after Game 5 if he is fighting through frustration on the ice and his response indicated that he isn't.

"I don't know if it's frustration, but it's not a good thing when you can't help your team win and do what you want to do out there," said Nash, who has one goal and three assists in nine career playoff games.

The players who know Nash best in the Rangers' dressing room -- his former teammates with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Derek Dorsett and Derick Brassard -- say Nash never is someone who will outwardly express his frustration or let anyone know if he's bothered by a slump, which was the word Nash used after Game 5 to describe what he's going through.

"He's a guy that is going to stick with it no matter what," Dorsett told NHL.com. "It doesn't matter what people write about him, say about him; he doesn't let that kind of stuff bother him too much -- at least he doesn't show it, anyway. He's a guy who is a true professional and he'll keep doing his job, keep working to get those goals. Once he gets one, though, they'll start coming."

Brassard said he feels he can help Nash, especially if they're going to be on the same line, as they were along with Zuccarello in the third period of Game 5. Brassard said the key will be to keep feeding Nash the puck then working to get open.

"I see a guy that competes, that's trying to go to the net," Brassard said. "Obviously everyone knows him in the League and they're going to put more attention on him because he's a game-breaker. He's trying hard here and I think [in Game 6] we need to help him out as linemates just to make sure we support him. He wants it -- he wants it bad. That's what we see in the room.

"I think we could do a lot of damage [in Game 6]. We're going to need to be good."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

Back to top