Spotlight on the Opponent: Rick Nash

Rick Nash

What: Detroit at NY Rangers
When: Thursday, January 16, 7:00pm (TV: FSD)

Perhaps there isn’t a more enigmatic player in the National Hockey League than the Rangers’ big LW, Rick Nash.

If Nash always played as big as his size,  he’d own Manhattan.

Instead, the former Columbus Blue Jacket has been marginally impressive since the Rangers acquired him in a blockbuster trade in July, 2012.

Last season, Nash was excellent—42 points (21 g, 21 a) in 44 games. But in the playoffs, when the Rangers needed him the most, Nash pretty much disappeared (1 g, 4 a in 12 games).

This season Nash has battled some injuries and has played in only 31 games. But in those 31 games, Nash has just 20 points (11 g, 9 a).

Since that poor playoff and subsequent slow start this season, there have been whispers that while Nash was a big fish—literally and figuratively—in a small pond while playing in Columbus, maybe the frozen pond of New York is too big for him.

Those whispers grew louder and louder this season, until they became a low din. The Madison Square Garden faithful started to make Nash the target of their ire.

But a funny thing happened on the way to purgatory.

The Canadian Olympic roster was announced on January 6, and the Ontario native Nash made the cut. Since then, his play has picked up.

Nash scored the game-winning goal last Friday against Dallas with less than two minutes to play. He was on his back when he made the play.

As the Rangers pressed in front of Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen, Chris Kreider shot the puck off him. The rebound fell to Nash, who knocked it in with 1 minute 58 seconds remaining.

“I think it was 50 percent luck — well, probably 70 percent luck and 30 percent skill,” Nash said of the winning goal, his 10th of the season and his third in three games. “I was just following the puck. It went a little bit higher than anticipated, but luckily it went in.”

“(Nash) is playing great,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said after the Dallas game, which came on the heels of the Rangers’ upset win in Chicago.

If Nash can continue his rejuvenation, it will greatly help the Blue Shirts, who are on the fringes of playoff contention. With the season past the halfway mark, every point from here on out is precious.

And, if New York makes the tournament, a certain left winger will be looking to make amends for last year’s awful post-season. And that can’t be good for opposing goalies.

In 749 career NHL games, Nash has 321 goals. So it’s not like he forgot how to score overnight.

Nash wears no. 61 for the Rangers.