‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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Rick Nash has become a popular whipping boy among Rangers fans who expect the 6’4″ winger to carry the woeful Blueshirts on his back.
To demand more from Nash is fair given that he’s being paid a hefty $7.8 million salary and was a near point-per-game player in his first season in New York.
Let’s be clear. Nash needs to raise his game. One goal in seven games isn’t cutting it, yet to call Nash “soft” and “invisible” isn’t accurate.
Nash did set up Derek Stepan’s power play goal at 7:58 in the second period of Friday’s defeat to the Isles. He’s appearing to drive to the net more often than in games past. Overall, the end product is lacking and Nash is prepared to shoulder his share of the blame for the Rangers’ predicament.
“As a leader, in the leadership group — it’s important that in times like these that you step up and try to lead,” Nash said. “We’ve got to turn this around and start to pick up guys.”
Before Friday’s 5-3 loss to the rival Islanders, Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault described Nash as a “power forward” and said that Nash is “close” and needs to “stay with it.”
Nash is trying to dig himself and the Rangers out of this rut. The Blueshirts shouldn’t be losing to non-contenders like the Islanders, Blue Jackets and Predators. Nash knows that the Rangers need to find a consistent level of desperation on a game-to-game basis to pull themselves out of mediocrity and toward a winning path.
“We’ve got to be playing a lot more desperate and a lot more desperate to win games,” Nash said.
“I think when you outwork teams you will find the bounces start going your way,” he continued. “When you get outworked, that’s when they seem to go against you. So, we’ve got to work — you’ve got to make your own luck. You’ve got to work for your bounces.”
Since arriving in New York, Nash has been a very cool, unflappable character. He’s a laid-back kind of guy off the ice and hasn’t shown the outward signs of worry that are clearly evident in Henrik Lundqvist’s face after tough losses. That doesn’t mean that Nash isn’t digging in and working hard.
He is saying the right things and trying to pull his share of the load. Nash is being a leader and has been accountable for his share in the Blueshirts’ current plight. Right now, he’s a target for Rangers fans to direct their displeasure because of team-wide issues.
Nash is close to getting his game on track. Once he does, he will be loved in this town the way that captain Ryan Callahan and Lundqvist are by Garden devotees.
THE RANGERS’ PROBLEMS ARE DEEPER THAN NASH’S LACK OF PRODUCTION
As a whole, the Rangers are in a team-encompassing funk. Key defensemen are allowing breakdowns that lead to odd-man rushes and breakaway opportunities. (Ex: Dan Girardi.) Lundqvist is letting in goals with greater frequency than in any point in his nine-year career.
Look up and down the Rangers’ roster and point to a player outside of Mats Zuccarello who has raised his game. Ryan McDonagh has probably been the Blueshirts’ most consistent defenseman and even McDonagh committed an unusual amount of mistakes in Friday’s defeat.
Derek Dorsett is doing his job getting under the skin of opponents and Benoit Pouliot is finding a level of consistency after a horrendous start to his Rangers’ career.
Nash isn’t alone. You can check off nine-tenths of the Rangers’ roster as players who need to raise their game and figure out a way to pull the Blueshirts back to respectability.
You can follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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