By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
With one goal through seven postseason contests, it’s fair to say Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy would like more out of deadline pickup Rick Nash. Hell, deadline pickup Rick Nash would like more out of deadline pickup Rick Nash.
And joining 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich on Friday, Cassidy touched on Nash’s struggles this spring.
“Listen, he’s gonna be judged on a lot of times whether he scores or not,” Cassidy, named a Jack Adams Award finalist Wednesday, began. “That’s kind of been on his resume his whole life that he’s an elite player that scores goals. Unfortunately the puck didn’t go in for him as much. I thought he generated a lot of offense — we’ve got all this data and analytics that everyone uses — and he’ right up there with our chances created, he just didn’t bury any of them.”
Nash most certainly generated his looks, too, with 24 shots in seven games. And Nash actually finished the first round with 29 individual all-situation scoring chances for, second-most in the opening round (Alex Ovechkin led in this department with 30). He also finished with the 12th-most high-danger scoring chances for, with nine.
Finishing the series reunited on a second line with Jake DeBrusk (five goals and seven points) and David Krejci (two goals and eight points), Cassidy still likes the balance that the 6-foot-4 Nash brings to the Bruins’ forward corps.
“I like what he’s brought to the team; it balances how you pre-scout us or how you defend us,” Cassidy said. “You can’t just put all your eggs in one basket against [Patrice Bergeron]’s line because Krejci’s line will do some damage as well.”
Cassidy also enjoyed the fact that the 33-year-old Nash continued to generate legitimate scoring chances for the Bruins when bumped down to the third line with Riley Nash and David Backes in Game 6 in Toronto.
“I thought he could help that line. They were a little stagnant offensively, and he’s a guy that generates it,” Cassidy, who did not view Nash’s move down as a ‘demotion,’ offered. “He did up there in Toronto. That line had some good looks. There was I know, just off the top of my head, that Rick came off the wall and created a play and Riley Nash had an open net and it hit the guy’s stick in front — [they] had the goalie down and out. Right away, there was some positives from that move. They just didn’t finish. Sometimes in a short sample size, even though it was seven games, that you can have pockets of that where the puck doesn’t go in. We’re not gonna completely judge him on that series.”
But the Bruins acquired Nash for goals, not chances.
“We know it, though. He knows it: he’s here to produce, so we’re gonna need it going forward,” Cassidy, advancing to the second round of postseason play for the first time in his NHL coaching career, acknowledged. “We got it away with it this series because a kid like DeBrusk comes up and gets it done, and Rick certainly did his part as a linemate, he just didn’t individually finish. So we’re going to ask him [to], and he’s hopefully gonna get a little bit more of that done.
“So going forward, how do you fix that? Does he need to be tighter to the net, does he need to change sides, different personnel, more ice-time? We’re gonna look at a lot of different things. But to me, it’s just a matter of a little bit of puck-luck and then just a little more urgency around the net. That’s playoff hockey, so we’ve talked to him about that, and he’ll bring that going forward and hopefully he finds his game.”
Nash and the Bruins get back to work with Game 1 against the Lightning at 3 p.m. this Saturday.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.