Through four games, the two biggest superstars in the Rangers/Capitals first round series have combined for ONE goal. To show how insane that is, Rick Nash and Alex Ovechkin have combined for 681 career goals!
So what are the two teams doing defensively to shut these guys down?
Pat Leonard at the Daily News notes that Capitals coach Adam Oates has called for double-teams and defensive collapses from his forwards on Nash, who is already being checked by Washington defenseman John Carlson or whoever else is on the assignment depending on which wing Nash has occupied.
Here's Nash on the Capitals strategy...
"It seems like they're closing down on me. I usually get a lot of space coming off the wall, but they're really using that winger to come down and block it. So I've just got to move (the puck) more and work for my space."
Meanwhile, Dan Rosen at NHL.com says besides constant pressure from Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers forecheck has led to Ovechkin's lack of scoring...
"As much credit as Girardi and McDonagh get for their play against Ovechkin, Backstrom and Johansson, the Rangers' forecheck was much better in Games 3 and 4 than it was in Games 1 and 2. The forecheck not only led to more offensive chances, but it meant the Capitals' top line had to play in its defensive end, which obviously is not the favorite part of the ice for any of those three players."
John Moore adds that McDonagh has done a great job of staying in Ovechkin's face and not allowing him space to make things happen.
...i've been very critical of the Rangers lack of secondary scoring this season, but they are carrying the Rangers in the postseason. It is way beyond time for Nash to step up his game and make his mark on this series.
...i honestly feel that once he finally finds the back of the net, they'll start coming in bunches. Got to assume he's gripping his stick a little too tight right about now.
...as far as the Rangers defense on Ovechkin goes, other guys besides Girardi and McD are going to be counted on tonight as the Capitals have the final line change and you can be assured Oates will be looking to get his captain away from those two all night. Unless of course Torts just decides to leave McDonagh on the ice for four minute shifts like he did in Game 2.
I'm worried about Ovechkin going crazy tonight. After all the publicity with his coasting on the Rangers winning goal on Wed he would have to have no pride whatsoever to not play hard in both ends tonight. I wish that nobody had noticed that video though it was entertaining at the time. He has something to prove tonight. Hopefully he crosses the line (and nobody gets hurt) and he lives in the penalty box...
Stop Coaching Pat... Nash has been fine, you dudes are all crazy. Watch him break the fuck out tonight so everyone can go back to picking on someone else (where is powe when you need him?).
This blog has been collectively wrong about Stralman and Zucc so far. Can't wait for you guys to be wrong about Nash too.
I will admit that the blog has been collectively right about MDZ sucking.
We all would love to have the Big Guy start putting the puck in the net. This is the time where you really need to perform if you're going to be remembered as a great player. A couple of things to consider before we write him off as a Playoff Pansy, however:
1. He ain't the only star having trouble scoring. See: Ovechkin, Parise, Seguin, Kane (ok, he has 5 assists, but no goals yet), Perry, etc. Scoring in the playoffs is hard for many of the stars not named Sidney Crosby because everyone is keying on them. That's why secondary (and tertiary) scoring is critically important.
2. I have to think our boy is hurting, even though he's not admitting it. He just doesn't have the explosive starts/moves that were there earlier in the season, and his shooting accuracy/speed seems slightly off. I really wonder if that pre-season groin problem is acting up, or if it's something else. Interesting note: as the season wound down to a close, he has had less ice time in a number of games (all before we secured a playoff spot). Here's some stats I grabbed from another blog regarding his relatively low ice time in Game 4.
"The 16:49 (in Game 4) was the fifth lowest ice time he has had this season.
- On March 23, Nash played 16:23 in a game against Washington where he had two assists.
- On April 6, he played 14:17 against Carolina where he had a goal and an assist
- On April 19, he played 16:11 against Buffalo and had a goal and an assist
- On April 27, he played 14:29 against the Devils and had two goals."
I'm more concerned that Nash may be playing hurt than not scoring so far. He just doesn't seem to have his usual explosiveness, which gives the Caps D more time to bottle him up. His reduced playing minutes in the last game may be another indication that he is in fact hurting.
If the problem was Nash gripping his stick too tightly or just not producing, you wouldn't be seeing any scoring from Stepan, Brassard, or others. Because the Caps are keying so much on Nash, it's allowing others more space to pick up the slack, and they've done just that in the past 2 games. If they keep it up, the Caps will be forced to deal with them and Nash will have the space he needs.
I think the fans have been unfair to Nash given that they are clearly keying on him. This isn't baseball where you eventually have to pitch to someone. They can always force him to pass the puck. He did a very nice job of it setting up Stepan's goal in game 3.
@brian2686 LOL on Del Zotto comment.
@rangermom Good point Ranger Mom. Sid crosby/Malkin and Kane/Toews get extra room and production because it's hard to stop both of those guys. All the star players get focused on in the playoffs, so once the depth starts cashing in, you have to play everyone equally. Nash will find his space then
Also The Magic Man (datsyuk) is in his own category.
@gravey94 It's not like he's had zero opportunities. Yes, the Caps have done a fantastic job but he does have 17 shots on goal in the series. Needs to start finding the back of the net soon as I'm not confident the secondary scoring can carry this team much longer.
@Dminches That's fair, but he's being paid a lot of money to find the back of the net. Hopefully the secondary scoring will force the Capitals to key on other players opening up space for Nash.
@Dminches @KevinDeLury I know a lot has been said about Nash not being able to play in the playoffs etc but really this is his first time there under any pressure to win. One series for a team that barely scraped in against Detroit isnt much of an introduction to the pressure and expectation in NY. If the Rangers can get through the 1st round (big if), I expect him to be more comfortable