Fair or not, people tend to slam stars when their teams struggle and they don’t score goals.
Sidney Crosby’s feeling that right now, even though he’s notching assists for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Rick Nash finds himself in that predicament once again, especially when you get selective with his numbers: just one goal in 16 playoff games with the New York Rangers.
Sure, he has four assist in the first four games of this series but … zero goals.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault told ESPN that he doesn’t doubt Nash’s efforts.
“Rick really wants to do well and he’s trying every shift he’s on the ice to put his best foot forward,” Vigneault said on Saturday. “It’s a tough league. The opposition, when you have an elite player like that, obviously has a plan. He’s got to keep working. He’s got to try to elevate his game. He knows he’s a big part of us having success, winning games and moving forward.”
“The one thing I don’t have doubt about him is his willingness.”
It’s difficult to bury him when you look at shots alone. He’s fired at least five shots on goal in every game this series (23 overall), even if there might be some doubts about the quality of those attempts. The 29-year-old was similarly snake-bitten in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, only connecting for one goal despite firing 42 shots on goal in 12 games. Overall, his playoff shooting percentage is just 2.6 versus his career regular season mark of 12.4.
To some, that might be a sign that he can’t get it done in the postseason. Others might say he’s mostly unlucky. Either way, the judgments will only get harsher if the Rangers can’t win this tied series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.
OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.
It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.
Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.
In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.
It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.
The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?
“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”
Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.
The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.
Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.
With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.
They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.