The New York Rangers are set to open up their best of seven games series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, April 16. After finishing the regular season as the top team in the NHL and winning the President’s Trophy, the Rangers are just as ready as their fan base are to get their Stanley Cup run started, especially after making the finals last season, only to fall to the Los Angeles Kings. For Rick Nash, that hype turns into expectations.
Nash, the leading goal scorer and the best forward on the Rangers’ roster had come under criticism after a disappointing playoff performance last year. In twenty five games, he had three goals, ten points, and was a -1. However, Nash seemed to get the message from the fans and the organization, as he has been lights out all season long.
He scored a career high in goals (42) and has shown that he can be one of the best two-way players in the league. Head Coach Alain Vigneault has Nash playing in any and all situations on the ice from even strength to both special team units (power play and penalty kill), and Nash has proven to strive, contributing as one of the big reasons as to why the Rangers are in the position they are in right now.
After missing Wednesday’s practice with a minor flu bug, Nash was eager to get back on the ice and take part in Thursday mornings skate, putting aside any doubt fans had regarding Nash’s availability to play on Thursday in Game 1 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.
His teammates all acknowledge his stellar play on all ends of the ice and whatever line the head coach places him on, he has instantly made everyone around him a better player this season. However, no matter what he has done in the regular season (which has been his best performance since breaking into the league), it will be overshadowed by his playoff performance. Nash has come up clutch for the Rangers all season long, but can that continue into the postseason?
As soon as the puck drops on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden with the Rangers setting their sights on a deep playoff run, all eyes will be on #61.