Did You Know? Rick Nash hasn’t had much help in Columbus

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The “Did You Know?” series ties in the news of the day with some little-known hockey factoids and/or trivia. It’ll be fun. Trust me.

Sitting around with a friend the other day (fine, it was by myself) and the question came up: Is Rick Nash overrated? Is he at all responsible for Columbus’ years of ineptitude? Sure, he hasn’t had much to work with, but isn’t he supposed to be a superstar? He’s the captain, shouldn’t he be carrying the team? And hey, his complimentary pieces haven’t been that bad.

Have they?

What followed was a dizzying look back at failed drafts, questionable trades, coaching changes and misguided free agent acquisitions.

First, the history: Columbus came into existence in 2000. Two years later, Nash was taken first overall at the draft.

Since we’re on the subject of drafts, here’s Columbus’ record of first-round selections…

2000 — Rostislav Klesla (4th overall)
2001 — Pascal Leclaire (8th)
2002 — Nash (1st)
2003 — Nikolai Zherdev (4th)
2004 — Alexandre Picard (8th)
2005 — Gilbert Brule (6th)
2006 — Derick Brassard (6th)
2007 — Jakub Voracek (7th)
2008 — Nikita Filatov (6th)
2009 — John Moore (21st)
2010 — Ryan Johansen (4th)

That’s ten top-10 selections, three of which (Nash, Brassard, Johansen) are still with the team. Klesla and Brule are in Phoenix, Leclaire is an unrestricted free agent, Zherdev and Filatov are in the KHL, Picard’s with Norfolk and Voracek’s in Philly.

So that’s the (failed) draft component. Now let’s take a look at Nash’s running mates.

Since joining the Jackets, Nash has led the team in scoring five times. In the years he didn’t, the leading scorers were Ray Whitney and David Vyborny. In the years he did, the second-leading scorers were Vyborny, Zherdev, Kristian Huselius, Antoine Vermette and R.J. Umberger.

(In case you’re curious, CBJ’s leading scorers prior to Nash’s arrival were Whitney and Geoff Sanderson.)

What about the blueline?

Short answer: Yikes. The BJ defensemen during Nash’s tenure have been, how to put this…able to skate. If you were to make a list, and were very generous about it, the top six would probably be Klesla, Adam Foote, Jaroslav Spacek, Fedor Tyutin, Bryan Berard and Ron Hainsey. All-name team members Duvie Westcott and Grant Clitsome narrowly missed the cut.

What about the goalies?

Short answer: Ugh. The chronology of starting netminders during Nash’s time is Marc Denis, Leclaire, Fredrik Norrena, Leclaire again, Steve Mason, briefly Mathieu Garon, Mason again and finally, Curtis Sanford.

Coaches?

Short answer: A mess. Nash is 27 years old and a veteran of nine NHL seasons — during that time he’s had seven different head coaches in Dave King, Doug MacLean, Gerard Gallant, Gary Agnew, Ken Hitchcock, Claude Noel, Scott Arniel and now, Todd Richards.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Nash played with Sergei Fedorov and Fredrik Modin, both of whom won Stanley Cups…but both of whom joined the Blue Jackets well past their expiry dates. Fedorov came to Columbus at age 36 and played two uninspired seasons; Modin came over as a 32-year-old and, after scoring 22 goals in his first season, spent the next three years mostly injured.

So, the conclusion — overrated or not, Nash can’t blamed for how sad-sack a franchise Columbus has become. The BJs have shown levels of dysfunction normally reserved for Kardashians and/or Osbournes.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson