2014 NHL Playoffs: New York Rangers Need More From Top Line vs. Montreal Canadiens
While the Rangers have done many things well to reach the third round, there’s a lot of room for improvement. The Rangers’ top line of Derek Stepan, Rick Nash and Chris Kreider has to produce more offense, which is something that New York fans have been waiting anxiously for.
Kreider could be the x-factor that pushes the Rangers’ offense to the next level. A broken hand suffered towards the end of the regular season caused Kreider to miss 19 games. He returned to the lineup in Game 4 of the second round and has two points in four games so far.
Now that Kreider has a few games under his belt following his injury, it’s time for him to make a difference on offense. Let’s face it, the Rangers are not facing Marc-Andre Fleury anymore; goals are going to be much harder to come by against Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
The top line definitely hasn’t been the Rangers’ best in the playoffs, which speaks to their depth, but it still raises urgency for those guys to get it going.
Stepan has played pretty well throughout the playoffs, but the entire Rangers world have been disgusted with the production of Nash, which has been next to nothing. After leading the Rangers in goals this season, Nash has zero in 14 playoff games and has just four points. Nash has a ton of shots in the playoffs, but most of them haven’t been quality shots; he needs to get to the front of the net where most goals are scored. Nash has just one point in his last 11 games, and that was a secondary assist on an empty-net goal. Talk about lack of production, but Kreider could be the key that helps Nash break into the goal column.
Kreider assisted on seven Nash goals in the regular season, and the line has had a few games to regain chemistry after Krieder’s return. Nash only tallied four points during nine regular season games without Kreider in the lineup.
The combination of Stepan, Nash and Kreider brings a lot of speed, skill and great passing ability. They need to put it all together to put pressure on the Canadiens’ defense. Not only is Price on fire entering the series, but the Rangers haven’t done much scoring in their meetings with the Habs this season.
The Rangers lost two of three meetings with Montreal this season, and they only managed to score one goal while getting shutout twice. Price only had one of those shutouts, but he’s by far the best goalie the Rangers will see to this point in the playoffs. Considering the other lines for New York have played very solid, a spark from the first line would make the team twice as dangerous on offense. They’ll need it against Price and the Canadiens.
The Rangers have gotten this far without much from their top line, but they won’t be able to make it all the way if the top trio doesn’t produce more points.