Rick Nash scores twice as Rangers edge Sabres 4-3

Prior to Tuesday’s win, New York Rangers forward Rick Nash had gone 12 games without a goal.

They had lost three straight and the man they needed to start scoring again simply couldn’t.

But on Tuesday in a 5-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Nash found his stride.

And on Thursday night he notched two more in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on NBCSN.

Nash opened the scoring for the Rangers 1:24 into the game, taking advantage of a defensive mishap by Jake McCabe, who couldn’t handle a puck as the last man back and allowed Nash in on a breakaway.

The Sabres would respond by periods’ end, starting their first of three comebacks on the night.

Kyle Okposo brought the game to level terms with 1:19 remaining in the first period, completing a tic-tac-toe play on the power play.

The Sabres came into the game with the 31st ranking on the man-advantage, but managed to score twice with it in Thursday’s game.

The Rangers regained the lead through J.T. Miller in the second period.

New York just went through a power play without registering a shot on goal, but Miller was able to grab the puck at the right circle moments after the Sabres’ penalty had expired and rifled a wrist shot bar down behind Lehner at 8:26.

The Sabres engineered their second comeback of the game, tying it 2-2 the game later in the period from an unlikely source.

Justin Falk had gone 101 games without putting a puck in the back of the net. Not since March 6, 2015 had Falk seen his name in that category on the scoresheet.

But he shed that monkey off his back on a point shot low along the ice that beat Lundqvist through the five-hole with 2:50 remaining in the frame.

Nash scored his second at the 6:49 mark of the third period, following by Buffalo’s third successful comeback attempt at 14:59 when Rasmus Ristolainen’s shot found its way through a crowd and behind Lundqvist for a 3-3 tie.

Pavel Buchnevich scored the winner 1:03 later, finishing off a nice feed from Mika Zibanejad for his 12th and the Rangers second straight win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

New York Rangers ’15-16 Outlook

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If you’re fascinated by athletes chasing big numbers in contract years, then the New York Rangers have been a go-to source of entertainment in recent years.

It’s difficult (if not nebulous) to try to quantify the impact of “greed is good,” but the Rangers are a hungry team with plenty of motivation in 2015-16. That’s what happens when you mortgage bits of your future via trades and employ some players chasing their next checks.

You never really know how wide open a Stanley Cup window might be.

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault saw that in action in Vancouver, as the franchise declined from a huge contender to a bubble team in little time.

We’ve asked more than once if Henrik Lundqist’s elite days are numbered. It’s also worth noting that at 31, Rick Nash is in the middle of that age in which snipers see a slide in production.

The contract year situations aren’t of “uh oh, we better re-sign Henrik Lundqvist/our current captain/Derek Stepan” enormity, but they’re still intriguing.

On defense, you have veteran Keith Yandle and fading graybeard (literally) Dan Boyle. Antti Raanta also enters a pivotal year as an NHL backup.

The forward group might be the most intriguing.

Just look at the pending RFAs alone: Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T Miller and Emerson Etem. There’s some fascinating potential for all four of those players.

Even with Boyle’s $4.5 million cap hit set to expire, salary cap gymnastic may be required once again in the summer of 2016.

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Paying players after strong years – and learning to let some of the less essential ones go – has been a pretty rewarding process for the Rangers, even if there’s been the occasional miss (see: Anton Stralman).

It’s New York Rangers Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Rangers.

The New York Rangers earned their third Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history with a 53-22-7 record last season.

New York then eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games of the first round and edged the Washington Capitals in seven games in the conference semifinals. However, Tampa Bay cut New York’s bid for a second straight Stanley Cup Final appearance short defeating the Rangers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final.

Rick Nash led the way offensively for the Rangers scoring a career-high 42 goals and 69 points in 79 games. Center Derick Brassard also had a career year notching a personal best for goals (19) and points (60).

In what was his final NHL season, Martin St. Louis reached the 20-goal plateau for the 10th time in his career. The 40-year-old announced his retirement in July.

In goal, Henrik Lundqvist went 30-13-3 while posting a 2.25 G.A.A. and a .922 save percentage in 46 appearances. Despite missing 25 games due to a vascular injury, the 33-year-old finished fifth in Vezina Trophy voting.

Cam Talbot took over in Lundqvist’s absence. The 28-year-old finished the season with a 21-9-4 record to go along with a 2.21 G.A.A. and a .926 save percentage.

Off-season recap

It was a busy off-season for the Rangers.

After 15 years as the general manager of the Rangers, Glen Sather stepped down in July and handed the duties to Jeff Gorton.

On the ice, the Rangers dealt Talbot to the Edmonton Oilers and filled his spot with Antti Raanta.

New York also acquired Emerson Etem from the Ducks for Carl Hagelin on the second day of the NHL Draft.

Earlier this month the Rangers added depth at center inking free agent Jarret Stoll to a one-year deal.

The Rangers also took care of their own.

Restricted free agents J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast got new deals and Derek Stepan avoided arbitration signing a new six-year $39 million contract.

James Sheppard, who scored two goals and registered nine penalty minutes in 14 games after being acquired from the San Jose Sharks, remains unsigned.

Several Rangers are still recovering from injuries suffered last season.

Brassard had wrist surgery in late June and was expected to require four-to-six weeks of recovery time. Captain Ryan McDonagh, who led all Rangers’ blue liners with 33 points in 71 games last season, is still recovering from a broken foot suffered in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Mats Zuccarello has been cleared to resume skating and have contact after taking a shot to the head from McDonagh in Game 5 of the Rangers’ first round series against the Penguins.

Mackenzie Skapski is still recovering from off-season hip surgery.

Quick: Pacioretty is ‘the most underrated player’

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Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick wrote the second part of his Elite Snipers 101 article and while it’s a great read from start to finish, his take on Montreal forward Max Pacioretty is perhaps what stands out the most.

Per The Players’ Tribune:

When I think of Max, I think of the most underrated player in the NHL. Only three players have scored more goals than him over the past three seasons — and these aren’t all pretty power play goals. Most of his goals come in 5-on-5 situations where space is tight, and I know he had 10 game-winners last season. Max is similar to Tavares in the way he works in dirty areas. It blows my mind that he’s not talked about more because he’s such a great scorer.

Fair enough, so let’s talk about him a bit.

First off, to Quick’s point: He is of course correct that there are just three players that have netted more goals than Pacioretty over the last three seasons: Alex Ovechkin (136), Steven Stamkos (97), and Joe Pavelski (94). Pacioretty is tied with Perry for fourth place with 91 markers over that span. Granted, Perry has played in five fewer games, but if that’s going to be brought up, then the fact that Pavelski has participated in 15 more contests than Pacioretty has to be raised as well.

Quick also brought up power-play goals and sure enough just 21 of Pacioretty’s 91 markers have been scored with the man advantage, which is significantly less than the players ahead of him. Still, if you want to just look at five-on-five markers over the last three seasons, then Pacioretty’s still tied for fourth place with 55, it’s just that now it’s Rick Nash (64), Perry (62), and Ovechkin (56) ahead of him.

Whatever method you’re using though, it’s clear that Pacioretty is one of the top snipers in the game today, but if he’s not as popular a subject as some of the other players that have been roughly as productive as him, then perhaps there’s a simple explanation. Unlike Ovechkin, Stamkos, Nash, or Perry, the Canadiens forward hasn’t had a monster campaign yet. He’s around their level in terms of overall production because he’s been consistently great in recent seasons, but he hasn’t finished in the top-three in goals yet or being a major contender for the Hart Trophy. Pacioretty also hasn’t made his mark in a playoff run yet.

That’s a theory at least, but it doesn’t take anything away from him. Meanwhile, Montreal has him at a $4.5 million annual cap hit through 2018-19 while Pavelski is at $6 million through 2018-19, Stamkos has one campaign left at $7.5 million, Perry is at roughly $8.6 million through 2020-21, and Ovechkin is at about $9.5 million through 2020-21.

Here’s a chart that shows which teams have been good/bad at drafting

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Via TSN.ca’s Travis Yost, here’s a chart showing draft success (or lack thereof) for all 30 NHL teams:

source:

A team that’s done well at drafting will be in the top right. A team that hasn’t will be in the bottom left.

To be considered a “successful” draft pick, Yost determined that the player would have to play 100 games in the NHL. He adds that sorting by other metrics, like points or time on ice, yields “similar results.”

Yost was focusing on the New Jersey Devils’ lack of success in the draft; hence, the bold.

Now, obviously, a team like Columbus (which the chart shows has done well at drafting) is going to have an advantage in the first three rounds over a team like Vancouver (which hasn’t), since the Blue Jackets had much higher picks than the Canucks enjoyed from 2000-2012.

In fact, the Jackets had 11 top-10 picks over those 13 years, including Rick Nash going first overall, along with notable busts Gilbert Brule, Nikita Filatov, and Alexandre Picard. The Canucks, meanwhile, never drafted higher than 10th.

Of course, that doesn’t excuse Vancouver’s inability to find players in the later rounds. The last “successful” players the Canucks took after the third round were Mike Brown, who was a fifth-round pick back in 2004, and Jannik Hansen, who went in the ninth round that same year.

In contrast, the New York Rangers have been extremely successful in those later rounds, having identified the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Marek Zidlicky, Ryan Callahan, and Carl Hagelin as worthwhile gambles.