The New York Rangers traded for Rick Nash in the summer of 2012 in the hope that he was the missing piece of their Stanley Cup puzzle. It came at the expense of two of the team’s top grinders, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov. Although Nash played like an elite forward last season, the Rangers missed that grit in the playoffs. This season, not only are the Rangers missing that grit, but they are also missing the brilliance Nash has displayed throughout his career. If the Rangers want to make any sort of deep run, they need the dominant Nash to show up.
Nash has only played 18 games this season, but is still on pace to be the Rangers’ leading goal scorer. He has six goals this season, but a team as offensively challenged as the Rangers cannot have its best forward scoring a goal every three games.
The truth is that the Rangers need at least one goal per game from Nash. The only man on the Ranger roster that comes close to his talent level is rookie Chris Kreider, and Mats Zuccarello is trying his hardest to reach that level this season. Nash, however, was brought to New York to be the Rangers’ best player.
Is Nash still feeling the effects of the concussion he suffered in October? Although he appears to be healthy, one must wonder if he is afraid to sustain another one. If so, it is showing in his play. In Wednesday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, one forgotten play that turned out to be a critical one in a 4-3 shootout loss was Nash hitting the post with a wide-open net early in the first period. Nash playing at his usual elite level most likely finishes that shot.
The Rangers need to get their best forward going if they want to have any chance of making a second-half run. Nash not being at his best every single game will only add to the Rangers’ struggles, which they cannot afford at this point of the season.