Rick Nash has yet to don his big boy pants

18 Comments

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.

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

2 Comments

Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

2 Comments

Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

Getty
Leave a comment

Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

3 Comments

One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.