When Rick Nash was out of the New York Rangers’ lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, it was the fifth game in a row he’s missed. What started out as a simple bone bruise appears to be something much bigger, and the longer Nash is out, the worse overall it will be for the Rangers.
It’s no secret that this has been a tough year for Nash, whose shooting percentage is the lowest it has been in quite sometime, but his 12 goals and 33 points are still nothing to be scoffed at. Nash is still one of the Rangers’ best offensive players, and still one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the entire NHL.
Since joining the Rangers, Nash has been the Rangers most proficient scorer by a significant margin, and he leads all players in total points. For the sake of context, here are the four players directly behind Nash in goal scoring from 2012-2016.
Nash’s 0.45 goals per game is 0.18 higher than Derick Brassard’s. In terms of points, Nash also has a 0.06 lead over Stepan.
It should be noted that over the above span Nash ranks:
- No. 4 in even strength goals with 77
- 1. Alex Ovechkin (89), 2. Corey Perry (88) and 3. Tyler Seguin (84)
- No. 5 in shorthanded goals with seven
- 1. Brad Marchand (12), 2. Jonathan Toews (10), 3. Andrew Cogliano (9) and 4. Brandon Sutter (8)
- No. 10 in total goals with 101
- 1. Ovechkin (165), 2. Joe Pavelski (119), 3. Steven Stamkos (118), 4. Seguin (117), 5. Perry, Patrick Kane (111), 7. Max Pacioretty (110), 8. Jamie Benn (109) and 9. John Taveras (107)
The key to Nash’s success with the Rangers has been consistency, and that’s why this year is such an anomaly.
He’s played better than he’s been given credit for, but 12 goals in 45 games is one of those stats that understandably stands out like a sore thumb. To get a good comparison, here’s a chart of Nash’s performance through the first 45 games in each season he’s spent with the Rangers. The one caveat here is that he played in 42 of 48 games during the lockout year, but pro-rating his numbers three games was negligible in the overall picture.
This season he’s scored 12 goals, tallied 21 assists and 33 total points. He’s taken 149 shots, 3.31 a game, and has a shooting percentage of 8 percent. According to War-on-Ice he has 124 individual scoring chances, or 2.76 a game.
When taking Nash’s career average and juxtaposing it against this season, he’s off pace by eight goals, up five assists, down three points and 18 shots. He’s taking about half a shot less per game, and generating 0.38 fewer scoring chances.
So what does it all mean to his impact on the Rangers?
For starters, it’s alarming that Nash is down four percent in shooting percentage, but could there be a reason for it? In order to find that out we need to look at where Nash is this season relative to the entire team, and where he was last year.
At this point last season, the Rangers had 1,361 shots in 45 games played. Of those shots, 166 of them were taken by Nash or roughly 8.19% of total shots. This season through 45 games, the Rangers have taken 1,288 shots. Of those shots, 149 of them were taken by Nash or roughly 8.64% of total shots.
While Nash has fewer total shots than he did at this point last year, his team share is actually higher. This shows that this season Nash has been a bigger offensive driver this year, even as the Rangers as a team have declined.
While the above remains true for shots, does the same hold true for scoring chances?
Last year through 45 games, the Rangers had 1,130 scoring chances, 158 of which were Nash’s, or 7.15 percent of total chances. Through 45 games this year, the Rangers have had 1,061 chances, 124 of which were Nash’s, or 8.55 percent of total chances. So once again Nash has actually improved in an area although at first glance, it would suggest otherwise.
Here are the totals just for the sake of housekeeping and ease of comparison.
Long story made short, is that the 2015-16 Rangers aren’t as good offensively as they were last season. Nash has been forced to take a larger role both in generating shots and scoring chances. He has successfully done both, and yet he hasn’t had the goals to show for it. It isn’t due to a lack of effort, but rather just bad luck.
Considering his career shooting percentage — 12.3 percent, 11.4 percent with New York —he’s either going to rebound when he returns to the lineup, or this will just go down as a “blip” year. Either way, his value to the Rangers is abundantly clear and the team could run into some major problems if his absence is prolonged.
Stats via War-on-Ice.