Madison Square Garden Morphing Into "Nash-ville"
Nash's multi-faceted game is making good players better in New York
He arrived on Broadway with the hopes and expectations of all Ranger faithful strapped across his broad shoulders directly above the 6 and the 1 emblazoned on the back of his sweater.
Team chemistry was in some ways shoveled to the side much like the ice shavings during each carefully timed commercial break. For as Rick Nash went apartment hunting in Manhattan, heart and soul grinder Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and blue chip prospect Tim Erixon went off in search of condos in Columbus....as in Ohio, not the famed Circle encrusted with high-end temples of gentrification that bears the famed explorer's name on the Upper West Side of New York.
Yes, this trade brought with it a small dose of risk, but a calculated risk at that, one in which Glen Sather managed to land the proverbial difference maker, a bonafide star to skate, pass and score in a bonafide star-obsessed town, and he did so without a final tip of the cigar to the likes of Ryan McDonagh, Mark Staal or Chris Kreider.
After a lenghty game of chicken with recently downsized Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson, Glen Sather had finally gotten his man and Rick Nash would wear New York Ranger blue.
A unique blend of size, skill and smarts, Nash needed about a half dozen games to get fully acclimated to the John Tortorella brand of defense-first hockey, but progress was inevitable due in large part to his work ethic, team-first attitude and willingness to take on any task to win a hockey game. Whether laying out to block shots, burning seconds and sometimes minutes off the clock as part of the Rangers' steadily improving penalty kill or taking the hard knocks associated with driving to the net and drawing Power Plays, Nash is not your typical high maintenance coddled superstar. Leading the Rangers with 10 points (3/7) to go with his sparkling +7 rating, it's no surpirse that New York has run off 3 straight victories and 4 wins in thier last 5 just as Nash has begun to assert his dominance.
Recently having been paired with the emerging Derek Stepan and the fleet-footed Carl Hagelin, Nash's proven ability to bring out the best in his linemates has been on display as both have seen their productivity rocket. Hagelin in particular seems to have really risen to the occasion after a rocky start, using his speed and hell-bent net crashing mentality in perfect concert with Nash's keen knack for finding the open man when he's in a position to finish a play. With 4 goals and 3 assists on the young season, he's looking for his shot first, the proper mindset on a team that oftentimes has trouble firing the frozen rubber at the opponent's netminder.
Nash's work ethic is spreading like a rumor in the Blueshirt Dressing Room. Teammates young and old have stepped up their level of forechecking, corner work and all-around physical play over the last two weeks, a span that has seen the Rangers outscore their opponents by a margin of 17-10, aided also in part by Henrik Lundqvist's rock sold play after an uncharacteristically lukewarm start.
Also interesting to note is the offensive emergence of defensemen Mark Staal (+4 rating) and Michael DelZotto (+6), players who have seen the ice loosen up for them as opponents are forced to shade defensively to Nash whenever the 6'4" power forward positions himself near the net. Staal in particular has become a legimitate offensive presence having already tallied 6 assists on the young season.
The overall vibe surrounding this New York Rangers Team has without question taken on a far more positive tone as Nash has settled into his new home.
It is because of #61 that this Ranger Team will be heard from as the cream begins to rise in the NHL Eastern Conference.