Rick Nash rightfully drew a healthy dose of criticism for his playoff performance with the Rangers last year. His three goals in four series worth of games was not acceptable and fell well below expectations. However, his poor performance did not happen in a vacuum; context is important. As I wrote prior to the start of the Canadiens series regarding Nash’s play:
Nash has been victimized by a mixture of bad luck and mental ineptitude. Nash has a career shooting percentage of 12.4%, yet he scored zero goals with 52 shots prior to breaking the seal against Montreal in game one. If Nash scored at his career shooting percentage, he would have had 7 goals. Shooting percentages tend to dip in the playoffs, but even if he scored at half of his career rate he would have had four goals through the first two rounds and would have been tied for the team lead.
In total, Nash finished with a shooting percentage of 3.6% on 83 shots (which led the team). Even if Nash’s career shooting percentage dipped to 10%, he would have scored 8 goals and would have been tied for the team lead with Martin St. Louis. Yet again though, Nash’s shooting percentage dip requires context. A drop in shooting percentage could be indicative of poor play (I’m looking at you Thomas Vanek).
Nash has the highest possession percentage relative to his teammates, which makes sense considering the number of shots he has had. But he has accomplished this despite the fact that his line has faced the toughest competition on the team. For a player to have the highest possession percentage relative to his team while facing the toughest competition, he has to be playing well. That’s not something that can be accomplished by poor or even mediocre play.
These facts merely provide context to Nash’s slump, they don’t change the fact that he only managed three goals in a playoff run that culminated in a Stanley Cup Final defeat. Shooting percentage be damned. However, they do serve to temper the sentiment. Take this for example, The Hockey News saw fit to include Nash in their “Top 10 Worst Contracts” list:
The author’s rationale basically boils down to this; the only benchmark for Nash’s worth is goals and he didn’t score many, therefor he stinks. Wrong. Nash played damn good two way hockey in the playoffs. He didn’t score, but he has been the Rangers most consistent scorer during the length of his tenure in New York, which is precisely what’s is expected of him (5v5 all situations, regular season, and playoffs):
What should be of concern is that Nash has suffered through concussion problems in each of his first two seasons. But again, he still has managed to be the team’s most consistent offensive threat.
His contract isn’t great, as I’ve said before, he earned the “Columbus price”. At the time he signed the contract, the Blue Jackets stunk and were seemingly light years away from being relevant. The fact that his contract is backloaded does not matter for the Rangers though; James Dolan has Scrooge McDuck money.
Everything is magnified in the playoffs, exponentially so when your team reaches the Stanley Cup Final. So it makes sense that the hockey world is down on Nash, but that isn’t a reason to expel the relevant details of his overall ‘struggles’ because it conveniently fits the ‘hot take’.