It’s not as though Rick Nash has been without scoring chances in the first five games of this series.
He leads the Rangers in shots in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal with 19 and has created a few quality opportunities – perhaps the best was a breakaway in Game 2 when he rung a shot off the post – but with his team facing elimination Sunday afternoon in Game 6, the hulking winger remains without a goal in this postseason.
“I’m a pretty streaky player,” Nash said after the Capitals’ 2-1 win in Game 5 on Friday. “Right now I’ve just got to work out of this slump.”
Nash has just one point, an assist, in this series and has said that the Capitals have done a thorough job limiting his time and space.
“It’s just that they’re closing the space, not allowing much room. So you’ve got to find the other guys and use your teammates,” Nash said, acknowledging his frustration.
“Anytime you can’t help the team you definitely, it’s not the best thing and there’s a little frustration,” Nash said. “But when you’re not scoring you have to find other ways to help, whether it’s a big hit or a defensive play, setting someone up.”
While the defense may have thrown a wrench into Nash’s game, the Capitals insist they aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary against the 28-year-old winger. They want to take away time and space as they do against any elite forward.
In the course of this series, they’ve made a point to finish their checks against the 6-foot-4, 213 pound Nash and want to make sure he faces as much physical play as possible.
“We’re trying to play him hard. When he’s in the corner, we’re trying to give him a few shots,” Karl Alzner said. “I don’t know how used [he is] to being hit and hit hard and because he is such a big guy, a lot of times you give him a little bit more space….He’s a good player and we’ve been fortunate to keep him off [the scoresheet] for a bit.”
The problem with any such success against an elite offensive player is that, eventually they will find a way to break out. While they’ve done a good job limiting his looks so far, the Capitals want to make sure that Nash’s slump lasts at least two more days.
“He’s one of those special players that if you give him enough time he will break out of it,” Troy Brouwer said. “So we have to continue to still do the same things, try and keep his speed down, keep his possession down and not give him very much time with the puck so that he doesn’t get a chance to get going.”