It’s become an all-too common problem: When the playoffs start, Rick Nash stops scoring. He had just one goal in 12 games in the 2013 playoffs, two markers in 25 postseason contests last year, and went into Game 6 against the Washington Capitals with a goal in 10 playoff games.
His third period marker on Sunday isn’t enough to compensate for his lackluster history, but it’s a start and for him, it’s also a big relief.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders,” Nash told NHL.com. “It was frustrating when you feel like you’re letting your guys down and your organization down by not scoring. The more important thing that I focus on is the wins.”
Nash still felt like he was contributing to the Rangers’ victories even when he wasn’t finding the back of the net and head coach Alain Vigneault agrees that he’s been “an effective player.” Still, his scoring touch is a big part of his appeal and that’s been largely absent since the postseason started.
Perhaps this will be the beginning of a hot streak for Nash. It would certainly be coming at an ideal time given that Game 7 of their second round series against Washington is on Wednesday.
If the Ottawa Senators re-sign goalie Andrew Hammond — and it sounds like they intend to try — they’ll need to trade one of Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner.
If they decide to trade Anderson, should the Oilers be interested?
There’s no easy answer to that question, because there’s no certainty, not ever, when it comes to a goaltender. But at the very least, the veteran Anderson possesses a body of work that suggests a modicum of reliability.
In 406 NHL games for the Blackhawks, Panthers, Avalanche and Senators, Anderson has a .915 career save percentage. That’s in line with Jonathan Quick (.915 in 407 games) and Ryan Miller (.915 in 604 games). Anderson’s numbers this season, albeit in just 35 regular-season appearances, were among the best in the league. He was even better in the playoffs.
If there’s a concern about Anderson, it’s his age — he’ll be 34 next week. He’s had his share of injuries as well. But his contract is reasonable, with three years left at a cap hit of $4.2 million. Edmonton would pay that in a heartbeat to stabilize a position that badly needs to be stabilized.
Now, it’s possible the Senators try first to deal Lehner. So, might the Oilers be interested in him? Possibly. But Lehner is only 23, and he’s never started more than 30 games in the NHL. For all his upside — and he has quite a bit — his inexperience may not be a great fit in Edmonton. The same goes for a guy like Cam Talbot. Great NHL numbers, but a limited body of work. Plus, Talbot’s numbers (.931 save percentage in 57 games) were compiled with the help of some pretty good defensemen. (Remember that Ben Scrivens had good numbers with the Kings before the Oilers got him.)
Another experienced goalie the Oilers could pursue this offseason is unrestricted free agent Antti Niemi. We’re just not sure that would happen if Todd McLellan ends up becoming their coach.
As mentioned above, things didn’t start especially well for Rinne at this year’s tourney. He opened with a 5-1 loss to the U.S. on the first day of competition but got better — and in a hurry — following up that loss with wins over Denmark (3-0), Norway (5-0) and Slovenia (4-0).
In Finland’s last game, a 3-0 win over Slovakia, backup Juuse Saros got the nod.
Rinne’s shutout record at the Worlds is a feather in the cap of a pretty successful campaign. The Preds netminder earned his third career Vezina nomination on the strength of a 41-17-6 record, .923 save percentage, 2.18 GAA and four shutouts. The 41 were were two off his career-high, set in 2011-12 (when he finished behind Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick in Vezina voting.)
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The Washington Capitals already furnished the New York Rangers with bulletin board material thanks to Alex Ovechkin’s soft guarantee for Game 7. Why not double-down, then?
When asked about why the Capitals might take Wednesday’s decisive game against the Rangers, Evgeny Kuznetsov said it came down to Braden Holtby vs. Henrik Lundqvist … and he’ll take Holtby.
“Our goalie’s better,” Kuznetsov said with a laugh. “I don’t know what you want me to say. Our goalie’s better.”
Here’s video of his comments, along with other interesting reactions (some more likely than others to provide bulletin board material):
Those are bold words in just about any context, but considering Lundqvist’s status as one of the few truly elite goalies in the NHL – maybe the elite goalie in the league – things get that much spicier. Quite frankly, Lundqvist clearly got the best of Holtby in Game 6, yet perhaps their will be a reversal of fortune when everything’s on the line for both teams?
If that’s true, it would break an interesting pattern:
May 13, 2013: #Rangers beat #Caps in #Game7
May 13, 2014: Rangers beat Pens in Game 7
May 13, 2015: Rangers vs Caps in Game 7.
Perhaps Kuznetsov and Ovechkin were a little bit more candid following the frustration of seeing Washington’s 3-1 series lead evaporate into a 3-3 tie? Whatever the case may be, they’re adding extra motivation to a Game 7, the most inspirational situation a hockey player can ask for (at least from a team standpoint).
The beauty and silliness of sports wraps up in this thought, then: if Washington wins, this will look brilliant … and the opposite situation would make them look like bragging buffoons.
Barry Trotz probably doesn’t love this, yet it sure makes this situation more fun, doesn’t it? We’ll see if this candor only heightens over the long break until Game 7 on Wednesday, then.