PHT’s Pressing Questions: Can Nash put the Rangers over the top?

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Every day until the season starts we’ll explore an intriguing storyline for the upcoming year.

Last season, the New York Rangers fell just two wins short of playing in the Stanley Cup finals. They beat Ottawa and Washington in seven games, and lost to New Jersey in six. All in all, it was a good run.

But for all the good they did, they only scored more than three goals once in 20 games, and that was in the first game of the first round when they got four.

Thus, the blockbuster acquisition of Rick Nash from Columbus in July that sent Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a 2013 first round draft pick to the Blue Jackets.

Nash, 28, was the NHL’s first overall pick in 2002. Since then, the big winger has scored 289 times in 674 games. Of all the players with fewer than 700 games played, only Alex Ovechkin has more career goals.

True, Nash comes with a big contract – six seasons remaining with a cap hit of $7.8 million. But guys with seven 30-goal seasons that are still in their 20s are somewhat hard to come by.

Following the conference final defeat to New Jersey, Rangers general manager Glen Sather was determined to improve his club’s offense.

“This changes the complexion of our team,” said Sather. “It’s not going to change the way we play, but his ability is – he’s a world-class player, and was very excited to come to New York. We were one of his chosen few right from the beginning.”

But will Nash buy in to the Rangers’ do-whatever-it-takes philosophy that saw them block the third most shots in the NHL last season?

“I have no worry in the world about that,” said Sather. “If you remember, if you look at the record that this guy’s had over his career, he’s got a tremendous record of being an excellent hockey player. He played in the Olympics, he was one of the better players on that team.

“[Rangers head coach John] Tortorella’s coached against him not only in the NHL but also at the Olympics, and knew very well what his style was, knew that he’d fit in well with us. Everyone in our organization was after this guy.”

Besides, blocking a lot of shots isn’t always a good sign. When you’re blocking shots, you don’t have the puck. The Minnesota Wild led the league in block shots last season; the Islanders were second. Puck possession, or lack thereof, was a major concern for Tortorella in the New Jersey series.

In Nash, the Rangers get a big body that can control the puck in the offensive zone.

Thursday morning, Nash was skating with center Brad Richards and winger Marian Gaborik. Safe to say, not many teams can put together a trio like that.

Also safe to say, Nash never had linemates like that in Columbus.

“I think the main thing was looking at the team,” Nash said in July, “looking at what they’ve done over the years. It’s something I’d love to be part of.

“I’d love to help them out.”

Golden Knights salvage OT win after stunning Ducks comeback

Golden Knights hold off Ducks to win in OT
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The Ducks saved a wild comeback worthy of William Karlsson (aka “Wild Bill”), but the Golden Knights ultimately salvaged a 6-5 OT win.

Golden Knights stay hot by squeaking by in OT

Karlsson admitted it as much: Vegas started to run out of gas. After all, the Golden Knights completed a stretch of three games in four nights.

After going 20 games without a goal, Karlsson exploded for his third career hat trick. Shea Theodore‘s overtime-winner pushed the Golden Knights’ winning streak to an impressive six games.

Vegas: 76 points in 64 games played (34-22-8)
Edmonton: 73 in 62 (33-22-7)
Vancouver: 72 in 61 (33-22-6)

As you can see, the Oilers and Canucks rank as big threats to that Pacific crown with games in hand. That only cements the thought that this would have hurt very, very badly if the Ducks rampaged back for a win.

Adam Henrique nearly rallied that victory. He scored the Ducks’ two last goals to send the contest to OT, and also generated two assists for a four-point night. Nick Ritchie also factored heavily into the proceedings with two goals and two assists of his own.

Anaheim is in sell mode, and at a crossroads. But could this once-proud franchise serve as a pesky upset threat down the stretch?

Also, one wonders if Peter DeBoer felt a sense of deja vu. The Golden Knights were collapsing late against a California team, only this time he was behind Vegas’ bench, and his team was facing the Ducks. Oh yeah, and the Golden Knights were the overtime winners this time around.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Trade: Red Wings send Mike Green to Oilers

Oilers trade for Mike Green Red Wings
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Nostalgia seems to be in the air during NHL trade deadline eve. After Ilya Kovalchuk was traded to Washington, the Detroit Red Wings sent defenseman Mike Green to the Edmonton Oilers in a trade on Sunday.

To the Oilers: Mike Green

To the Red Wings: “A conditional pick in 2020 or 2021” plus Kyle Brodziak. Red Wings retain 50 percent of Green’s $5.375M salary.

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector reports the salary retention, and also the conditions of that pick:

Assessing the Mike Green trade for both teams

Overall, this seems like a no-brainer for the Red Wings. They need to stockpile picks, so getting a fourth that could become a third — especially in 2020 — is pretty nifty. That’s especially true because, frankly, Green’s perceived value has never been lower.

So far in 2019-20, the 34-year-old only has three goals and 11 points in 48 games.

That’s a far cry from his days as a near-Norris-winning high-scorer. If the knocks on Green’s game were unfair back then, they feel more accurate now. Consider, for instance, his poor showings by Evolving Hockey’s RAPM Charts:

Mike Green RAPM chart trade to EDM

He’s very limited overall, but as a specialist who can potentially boost the Oilers’ offense? That makes him more interesting. There’s no denying that Ken Holland approves of Green’s game, being that he was his GM in Detroit and now Edmonton.

What do you make of the Oilers’ decision to trade for Mike Green? Was the price right or a little too rich? Again, I think Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman did very nicely with this one.

The Athletic’s Jonathan Willis is very much plugged into what the Oilers need, and he provided pretty effusive praise. At worst, it’s not much of an investment for Edmonton, although I’d still argue it’s solid work by Detroit.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues keep heating up, cruise against Wild

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After a troubling lull early in 2020, the Blues are heating up again. St. Louis soundly defeated the Wild 4-1 on Sunday, pushing the Blues’ winning streak to four games.

Top Central Division teams pushing Blues

Again, the Blues have been heating up — and they haven’t been given much of a choice. At least, if they want to win the Central. The idle Avs are on a nice roll, while the Stars won their Sunday game.

Blues: 82 points in 63 games played (36-17-10)
Avalanche: 79 points in 61 GP (36-18-7)
Stars: 78 points in 62 GP (36-20-6)

Considering Colorado’s games in hand, it looks like the Central race could end up being close. Managing at least one round of home-ice advantage might come down to grinding out wins like the one the Blues managed on Sunday.

As much as Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington credit the play in front of them, goaltending’s been a considerable factor in the Blues’ success. Marcus Foligno ended Binnington’s shutout streak at 142:51, but the larger point remains that it’s tough to score vs. St. Louis.

Wild get an extra push to sell at trade deadline?

The Wild built a modicum of confidence by winning two games in a row before this one.

Minnesota seemed to put forth a pretty good effort, at least early on. Sunday stands as another game where they may shake their heads at missed opportunities. Minnesota’s man advantage went 0-for-4, and also allowed a shorthanded goal that took any steam out of a comeback bid.

The Wild ended Sunday outside of the West’s top eight with 65 points in 61 games played. While this loss doesn’t condemn them outright, you have to wonder if GM Bill Guerin might be a little bit more willing to sell off another piece or two.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Ducks host Golden Knights on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Ducks have lost six of their last eight games (2-4-2), and are far off playoff pace in the Western Conference. They’ve scored only 19 goals in their last eight games and their power play is also tied-second worst in the league at 14.7%, only better than the Chicago Blackhawks at 14.1%.

Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins after the 1-0 loss vs. Colorado on Friday night: “We’ve got to keep trying to get pucks to the net. It doesn’t have to be a clean shot on the net. If you watch the highlights every night, there’s a whole lot of dirty goals being scored everywhere. I think we all remember the highlight one from the day, but if you watch all the highlights there’s a lot of dirty goals.”

The Ducks are 12-13-3 at home, earning only 27 points at the Honda Center this season. Anaheim’s 27 home points are tied for the second least in the NHL this season, with only the Detroit Red Wings having less (22).

Vegas acquired Alec Martinez from the Kings on Wednesday, giving up two second round picks (one in 2020, and one in 2021) for the veteran defenseman.

Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer on Martinez: “You can see how smart he is, how composed he is…He made a couple reads in that game where you can tell he’s a veteran presence back there. A young defenseman might have run out of position to chase a situation and he held and recognized and waited.”

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: Vegas Golden Knights at Anaheim Ducks
WHERE: Honda Center
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 23, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Golden Knights-Ducks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Max PaciorettyWilliam KarlssonMark Stone
Jonathan MarchessaultPaul StastnyReilly Smith
Will CarrierChandler StephensonNicolas Roy
Tomas Nosek – Gage Quinney – Ryan Reaves

Brayden McNabbNate Schmidt
Nick HoldenShea Theodore
Alec Martinez – Zach Whitecloud

Starting goalie: Malcolm Subban

DUCKS
Max JonesRyan GetzlafRickard Rakell
Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueTroy Terry
Devin ShoreSam SteelJakob Silfverberg
Nicolas DeslauriersDerek GrantCarter Rowney

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson
Brendan Guhle – Michael Del Zotto
Jacob LarssonKorbinian Holzer

Starting goalie: John Gibson

John Forslund and Brian Hayward will call the action at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Sunday’s studio coverage on NBCSN will be hosted by Liam McHugh with analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury.