Here are the stats from New York’s three highest-paid forwards — Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis — through the first three games of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final:
Nash: No goals, no assists, minus-3 rating.
Richards: No goals, no assists, minus-4 rating.
St. Louis: One goal, no assists, minus-4 rating.
Given the amount of money the Blueshirts have committed to this trio this season — $7.8 million for Nash, $6.7 million for Richards, $5.6 million for St. Louis — it stands to reason the club is probably expecting more production from its “big three.”
Just ask Richards, who deep-sixed the notion all they need is some puck luck.
“You don’t talk about getting bounces,” Richards said on Tuesday. “It’d be nice to have them, but you don’t just talk and hope they come. You score a goal at the right time that helps and then you’ve gotta create more, get to the inside more.
“They’ve turned pucks over, we’ve turned pucks over, but for some reason it seems like ours are finding a way into the net. Their turnovers, either there is a big save or something close. But that’s an easy way to look at it. We’ve gotta find a way.”
That Richards, Nash and St. Louis have failed to generate any offense this series is one of the reasons New York finds itself in an 0-3 hole. St. Louis, to his credit, was a pretty productive in the three previous rounds and leads the Blueshirts in both goals (seven) and is second in points (14); Richards has been less productive (11 points in 23 games), though hardly surprising given his decline over the last two seasons, and all the pending buyout talk.
Which brings us to Nash.
To say No. 61 has struggled this postseason would be a major understatement — his 10 points put him on par with Jussi Jokinen and Torey Krug, guys that were eliminated two rounds ago (or Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny, who didn’t get past the opening round.) The style of play that saw Nash score 30-plus goals seven times — power, strength, ability to drive the net — has seemingly vanished; when Nash was put back on the Ranger power play late in Game 3 and created a scoring chance by driving to the middle of the ice, it was like watching an overwhelmed boxer land one really nice counter punch — an impressive flash, but one that wouldn’t change the outcome of the fight.
To be clear, Nash can’t be blamed for New York’s power play woes. He’s been largely absent from a unit that’s gone 1-for-14 this series — which brings us back to Richards and St. Louis, who’ve been front and center. Richards had an eye-popping 8:47 of man-advantage time in Game 3 while St. Louis had 4:38, yet the two could only muster four shots on goal.
“You got to finish in this game,” head coach Alain Vigneault lamented on Monday night. “It’s a performance-oriented business. Power play had some looks, but it didn’t finish.”
It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, Vigneault does with Richards, Nash and St. Louis moving forward. He indirectly called out the Richards-St.Louis-Hagelin unit prior to Game 3 but stayed away from throwing his lines in the blender during the contest, suggesting afterward that putting Nash on the PP was about as big of a shakeup as he had in his arsenal.
That, really, might sum up the situation on the whole. Vigneault’s playing the hand he’s been dealt here; he’s gone the entire postseason without Nash and Richards contributing much offensively and St. Louis has now gone silent as well. Sometimes, that happens. It’s also why the Rangers are talking about puck luck and bounces and breaks needing to go their way — there just aren’t many other answers or solutions to give.
Still…for $20 million, you’d think they’d be getting more.
PHT Extra: Mike Halford and Jason Brough discuss what the Rangers have to do in order to make a comeback attempt.