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X-Factor: Rangers need Nash going in playoffs

Forward's ability to score key to New York's playoff hopes

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Rick Nash started from behind the play as his teammates were breaking out. He didn't stay behind the play for long.

Before center Derek Stepan knew it, Nash was streaking past him and everybody else with 7:27 remaining in the second period of New York's regular-season finale against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Recognizing Nash's speed, Stepan quickly moved the puck up, sending Nash into the offensive zone in stride so he could split the two defensemen for a chance on goalie Jimmy Howard.

Nash created that chance by staying in the middle of the ice and using his speed and big body. He was inside the dots, where he thrives. But he didn't finish; he didn't score.

That has become an all too familiar theme with Nash, especially in his Stanley Cup Playoff career with the Rangers.

If New York wants to start making plans for a Stanley Cup championship parade down the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan, the Rangers are going to need Nash to do more than just create room and scoring chances.

Video: NYR@CAR: Nash shakes defender to score great goal

"He could do that all night long, but when he gets quality opportunities, we need those pucks to get in the net," Rangers associate coach Scott Arniel said. "He's on our list for who can put pucks in the net, and he needs to do it."

Nash has scored nine goals in 56 playoff games with the Rangers since 2013. His shooting percentage in his playoff career with the Rangers is .046, disturbingly low for the type of chances he has created and compared to his regular-season numbers in his four seasons in New York. 

He has 194 shots in the playoffs for the Rangers, an average of 3.46 per game. He is averaging 3.71 shots per game and scoring on 11.3 percent of them in 248 regular-season games with New York.

Nobody is about to make an excuse for him.

"Your top players have to outscore the other team's top players," Arniel said. "There are always the underdogs, the guys that come along that have good playoffs, but at the end of the day, Rick Nash, his biggest thing has been the playoffs and putting the puck in the net. 

"Hopefully, this year he gets out there and the puck goes in for him, because it's not for lack of chances. He gets a ton of them; it's a case that it has to get in the net."

Nash isn't exactly entering the playoffs on fire. 

He has three goals and no assists in 15 games since returning to the lineup following a 20-game absence because of an injury to his left leg. He has no points in his past five games. He scored 15 goals in 60 games this season after scoring a carfeer-high 42 in 79 games last season.

"He's going to score some big-time goals for us," Stepan said. "He's getting himself his looks and that's what is important to Rick. That's something he understands. When he's getting his looks, he knows they're going to start going in for him."

Video: FLA@NYR: Nash buries Klein's feed to pad lead

Nash typically gets his looks when he's playing inside the dots in the offensive zone, the area a 6-foot-4, 220-pound power forward should be exploiting.

"I always feel better playing on the inside and taking pucks to the net," Nash said. "I'm definitely making a conscious effort to get back on the inside."

Now he has to finish. If he doesn't do that, Nash's playoffs will be a failure, and maybe the Rangers' chances will get washed away with him.

"We expect him to score," Arniel said. 

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