By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It took seven games, but the Bruins may have their full assortment on deck thanks to the awakening of Rick Nash.
Held to just one goal in Boston’s first-round series win over the Maple Leafs — and certainly not for a lack of trying, with the second-most shots among all Bruins and 29 all-situation scoring chances generated (the second-most in the NHL) — Nash started the second round with two (beautiful) goals in a 6-2 win over the Lightning last Saturday.
It’s the level of play the Bruins were expecting when they sent four pieces to the Rangers to acquire Nash before the trade deadline just two months ago, and what they hope the 33-year-old can build on heading into Monday’s Game 2.
“The other night he’s able to finish a couple and I’m sure he’s probably the happiest guy in the building to see them go in, ‘cause he’s had a lot of good looks,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Nash’s Game 1 production.
“He’s been playing good hockey,” Nash’s linemate, David Krejci, said of the 6-foot-4 winger finding his game. “Some people might say that the puck’s not going in the net for him, but he’s been playing really good. He’s been a big part of our team. He’s playing both sides of the ice. Obviously two goals in Game 1, that always helps. Gives him some confidence that the puck is going in the net, so [I’m] gonna try to use him more often tonight.”
For what it’s worth, too, Nash has mainly delivered, according to Cassidy.
“I thought he came in and played well from Day 1,” Cassidy said Monday morning. “His first game in Buffalo I remember he flew in at I think six in the morning, it was an afternoon game, he probably found out [he was traded] at midnight, so it was a quick turnaround, and I thought he was one of our better players. So right away I think he wanted to prove to the guys — even though he’s been around a long time — that he wanted to do his part.
“Right wing versus left wing was never a big issue [for Nash], power play we put him right in front of the net, I think he’s comfortable there. Most of the things he did, he just kinda took off where he’s been most of his career. I think playing with a guy like Krejci — we were hoping would fit. I think it has, there’s stretches there that maybe didn’t go as well as we’d like, but I think what he’s done is been able to create offense most every night.”
One thing that Cassidy didn’t mention that the Bruins had to know they were getting with Nash, though, is streaky scoring. Especially this time of year. While Nash himself admits that he’s struggled to find the back of the net in the playoffs, it’s never been for a lack of trying. And when he has found his scoring touch before elimination came knocking, it typically meant that the floodgates opened and the results begin to pour in.
It happened to Nash in the first round last season, with his two of his three postseason tallies coming within a three-game segment in the first round, and with points in back-to-back games in the second round. Nash experienced something similar in a 2016 first-round loss, with points in three straight games (including another two goals in three games segment) for the Rangers. And even in 2015, when the Rangers ultimately fell to the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals, Nash went without a point in the first three games of the series before he came through with three goals and seven games in the next three games, downright taking over for two wins in that three-game segment.
It’s enough of a backstory to make Nash’s center understand his objective in Game 2.
“My job [in Game 2]: Give him the puck,” Krejci said of Nash’s potential impact Monday. “He had some luck around the net last game, so might as well use it and give him the puck as much as I can and try to create some room for him.”
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.