There’s a curious coincidence when it comes to cash and Rick Nash. When the money stops flowing, so does his production.
Come playoff time, when players play for glory instead of green (aside from the occasional, obscure post-season bonus), the New York Rangers’ most expensive regular season asset of $7.8 million scores at the pace of a minimum wage NHLer.
In Round 1, 11 Rangers scored against the Philadelphia Flyers. Nash, who played in all seven games and led the team in shots with 30, wasn’t one of them.
It was more of the same from Nash Friday night in the start of New York's second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nash had zero goals and no points in nearly 20 minutes of ice time.
Luckily for the Rangers, they were able to win without him, again, as they took Game 1 from the Penguins 3-2 in overtime.
The career sample size isn’t huge, but it’s big enough to be telling: Nash has played in five series (one with the Columbus Blue Jackets and now four with New York), scoring just two goals in 24 playoffs games.
It's not yet career defining, but it's a pattern that makes one wonder whether Nash will ever be money in the playoffs.
It’s not like he hasn’t proven possible of being just that. He’s 15th in game-winning goals among all active players, with 56, and the only player ahead of him who’s younger is Alex Ovechkin.
And although he’s never been past the second round of the playoffs, he's been in big games. Some of the biggest, actually. Nash has played in the past three Winter Olympics, winning two gold medals, one of which came on arguably the most pressure-packed stage in the history of hockey at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
During the regular season, Nash has been clockwork consistent, averaging at least 30 goals in all but his rookie season in 2002-03. Which is why his scant scoring in the playoffs is so head-scratching.
The Rangers paid a premium (Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick) to the Blue Jackets to get Nash when they traded for him in July 2012. And it looked like they had gotten a renaissance Rick Nash in 2012-13, his first season with the Blueshirts, as he was on pace for almost 40 goals and 80 points in the shortened season – his highest per game averages since 2008-09 when he had 40 goals and 79 points.
But then came the playoffs and Nash disappeared. He had just one goal and five points in 12 games, despite averaging more than 20 minutes a game.
Nash is New York's most gifted goal scorer, and the Rangers pay handsomely for his production during the regular season. To advance past Pittsburgh and into the Eastern Conference final, however, they need Nash to be philanthropic with his goal scoring and become the money player they've paid him to be.