Rick Nash’s playoff struggles have been an ongoing topic throughout the playoffs. If he makes some more plays like he did in the first period of Game 4, then that storyline will look very dated.
After surrendering six goals in each of their last two games, the Rangers were able to hold the Lightning at bay for the opening period tonight. It was starting to look like this contest would be scoreless through 20 minutes, but Nash accepted a pass from Kevin Hayes and then charged at the net to beat goaltender Ben Bishop one-on-one:
Nash now has three goals in 16 playoff games and eight markers in 57 career postseason contests. Those numbers pale in comparison to what he’s done in the regular season, but if he’s able to heat up, then that could push the Rangers over the top in their series against Tampa Bay.
As it is, New York has its work cut out for it as it seeks to protect the lead and even this series at 2-2.
Vigneault defends Nash, but realizes they need more
The NHL GM of the Year award has come down to Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman, the New York Rangers’ Glen Sather, and Anaheim’s Bob Murray.
For Murray its an opportunity to become the first general manager to win the award twice since it was first given in 2010. Anaheim won its division for the third straight year and is fighting the Chicago Blackhawks for a berth into the Stanley Cup Final.
Murray helped bring the Ducks to the next level in the playoffs by acquiring Ryan Kesler from Vancouver in the summer of 2014 in exchange for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and two draft picks. Kesler had a solid campaign and has been a big help in the postseason with four goals, nine points, and a 61.2 faceoff winning percentage in 12 contests. Perhaps the biggest move was the one Murray didn’t make though. He let goaltender Jonas Hiller walk as a free agent and rather than replace him, Murray put his trust in the idea that one of his two young netminders, Frederik Andersen or John Gibson, would be able to fill the void. So far that’s worked out for Anaheim.
Yzerman’s Tampa Bay Lightning had a 50-24-8 record in the regular season and advanced to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final. Yzerman inherited Steven Stamkos, but he’s done a great job of building a strong team around the superstar. The Lightning have a number of young offensive weapons, including Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat, all of which were acquired during Yzerman’s watch. Kucherov was a late second round selection in 2011 while Palat slipped all the way to the seventh round of the same draft. Johnson meanwhile was never drafted and Yzerman instead lured him over with an entry-level contract in 2011.
The Lightning general manager also acquired a vital piece of the puzzle in 2013 when he sent Cory Conacher and a fourth round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Ben Bishop.
Sather has been running the Rangers’ front office since in 2000 and oversaw their Presidents’ Trophy-winning 2014-15 campaign. He’s made a habit of trading for or signing high-profile players with varying degrees of success. The most recent example is defenseman Keith Yandle, who he pried away from Arizona in March. Some of the other big names he’s acquired in recent years include Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, and Dan Boyle.
The best thing about playing the wing is that you don’t have the same defensive responsibilities that centers do.
That’s the lazy man’s take, at least. (And coming from a blogger, an appropriate one.)
But it’s also why Steven Stamkos has been shifted to the wing, according to Lightning coach Jon Cooper.
“The one thing I thought, he’s spending too much time in the [defensive] zone, and he’s spending way too much energy down there,” Cooper said this morning ahead of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final versus the Rangers.
“So to free him up a little bit, and let him get out of the zone a little faster and not have to play the whole 200 feet, I thought was something that was going to save his legs and give him a little more time.”
Lately, Stamkos has been centered by Valtteri Filppula, with Alex Killorn on the opposite wing.
“To have a player like Fil who can control the puck the way he does, ” said Cooper, “he sees the ice, he can get those pucks to Stammer. He’s somebody that transports the puck really well.”
Frankly, Stamkos has always struck me more as a winger than a center. The three forwards that had the most shots during the regular season (Alex Ovechkin, Rick Nash, Max Pacioeretty) are all wingers. It’s a position that lends itself to players with good shots, and Stamkos certainly has one of those. He just needs more opportunities to use it.
Related: Stamkos doesn’t mind winging it