Prior to Monday’s Game 3 loss to the Penguins, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault called out his top players by saying they needed to put on their “big boy pants,” much like how Pittsburgh’s stars had done.
And then Rick Nash proceeded to go goalless for the 10th straight playoff game.
In what’s becoming a major problem for the Blueshirts — or already is one, depending on your comfort level — Nash’s offense has been completely absent and there are few signs it’s about to come around. In the last two losses, he’s managed to put just seven shots on goal (and, tellingly, played a playoff-low 15:30 in Game 2); in Game 3, his Corsi (50 percent) and relative Corsi (-12.3 percent) were the fourth-lowest among all Rangers skaters — and this came in a game where the Blueshirts outshot Pittsburgh by a decidedly large margin (35-15).
Prior to Monday’s defeat, Nash said his efforts this postseason simply weren’t enough.
“It’s disappointing that I can’t help the team win,” he sad, per the Toronto Sun. “If you are not scoring goals, you help in other ways. But it is definitely frustrating not being able to score.”
Even more frustrating? Nash’s lack of postseason production isn’t isolated to this season.
The 29-year-old’s played 22 playoff games for New York and scored a grand total of one goal, which came during a Game 2 loss to Boston in last year’s second round. Nash bookended that goal with a pair of ugly slumps: an eight-game drought prior to, and this current 13-game slide that’s carried over from last year.
It’s an alarming lack of production. While Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby was recently mired in a goalless drought of his own, at least he was racking up some points with seven through nine playoff games. Nash’s offense, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found. He’s racked up just four assists — three of them secondary — with just one coming on the power play.
The Rangers have been down this road before with their big-ticket forwards. Marian Gaborik, who came to New York on a $37.5 million deal, scored just six goals in 25 playoff appearances — one fewer than he has in nine games with the Kings this year.
Brad Richards, currently on a $60 million deal, has four goals and eight points in his last 20 playoff games (granted, Richards did score 15 points in his first 20.)
But the big difference with Richards and Gaborik was they at least had some previous playoff success. Richards won the Conn Smythe during Tampa’s 2004 Stanley Cup championship, and Gaborik literally carried Minnesota to the 2003 Western Conference final, scoring nine goals and 17 points in 18 games.
Nash has none of this.
His only playoff experience prior to joining the Rangers was a brief four-game cameo with Columbus in 2009, when he was 24 years old. He had three points in those games, but also finished minus-4.
As such, Nash’s ability to put on the big boy pants will continue to be called into question — because there are no past examples of him ever wearing ’em.