If Rangers want to win, Nash must step up

By Tom Dougherty (@todougherty)

You either love or you hate John Tortorella.

Rangers’ winger Carl Hagelin has to be one of those who do not like Tortorella very much right now. On Saturday, Tortorella offered his opinion on why Hagelin isn’t being used on the power play.

“Because he stinks on the power play,” he said, via NHL.com. “He stinks. I don’t know why. I wish I could put him on the power play, but every time I put him on, he stinks.

“I think he’s too quick. I think he’s a jitterbug and he screws it up. But again, I may use him, I don’t know. I’d love to.”

But Hagelin is far from the reason the Rangers’ power play is 2-for–31 (6.4 percent). During the shortened regular season, Hagelin averaged 1:02 on the man advantage, and often times, he was an extra forward.

When Hagelin was assigned to the PP, he mostly played with Derek Stepan and Taylor Pyatt.

The 24-year-old speedster tallied one power play goal in 48 games for the Rangers this season. He finished the campaign with 10 goals and 14 assists.

With the Rangers struggling as much as they are on the power play, one would think that Tortorella would single out a more relevant name like Rick Nash, who has no goals in eight playoff games.

Nash has been silent in his first postseason. He has had a couple of good opportunities, but couldn’t finish. The 6-foot-4, 213-pound power forward has just three assists for the Rangers.

For a player that cost the Rangers three players and a first-round pick, Nash has to be the superstar he’s labeled if the Rangers want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 28-year-old winger contributed to the Rangers’ PP woes during the regular season. New York’s power play finished at a 15.7 clip, 23rd in the league. Coming to the Big Apple with a high reputation, Nash registered just nine power play points — three goals, six assists.

Nash, however, did score 21 goals and record 21 assists in 44 games for the Rangers, though his lack of success on the power play is hurting his team in the playoffs.

In his first season with the Rangers, Nash averaged over three minutes on the power play during the regular season, and only scoring nine points makes Nash not a very productive power play player.

With his reputation as a superstar, Nash needs to be held accountable. Tortorella cannot play favorites in the media; if he’s going to single one player out, he has to do it to all of who it’s necessary to.

Tortorella can be a tough coach to play for because he often changes his lines, and will bench his players if they do not perform as expected. He feuded with Marian Gaborik multiple times, and New York eventually traded Gaborik.

One of the characteristics that make him such a good coach is his personality. Coaches like Tortorella are generally good motivators and players will play for him. He calls for his players to block a ton of shots, and the Rangers do that.

But when Tortorella sends mixed signals, he loses respect of his players. Gaborik was benched by “Torts” several times, demoted and called out, yet Nash has escaped the public scrutiny that comes with playing for John Tortorella.

Perhaps Tortorella is waiting until Nash gets more comfortable playing for him. Or perhaps he’s comfortable with Nash not scoring. But whatever the reason Tortorella hasn’t called Rick Nash out for not producing, it better be a damn good one.

Like the Rick Nash we’re seeing isn’t really Rick Nash, it’s Steve Nash.

Part of being a superstar is capitalizing at all aspects of the game. Look at Sidney Crosby. He’s the best player in the game not only because he scores at even strength and makes everyone he plays with better, but because he can play and produce in any situation.

Nash doesn’t get thrown around in that conversation, but he is described as a superstar. And superstars generally put up numbers in the playoffs. So far, Nash hasn’t been able to get on the scoreboard and it’s hurting the Rangers.

Hagelin’s power play struggles aren’t the problem for the Rangers. New York doesn’t need Hagelin to carry the power play because that isn’t his role on the team. That role belongs to Brad Richards — one goal in eight games — and Rick Nash, and neither of them is producing.

Great players perform when their team needs them most.

The Rangers need Nash now, and he’s nowhere to be found.

The Rangers and Bruins play Game 3 at 3:00 p.m. today. The game will be seen on NBC.

Contact Tom Dougherty at todougherty@gmail.com.

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About the Author: Tom Dougherty is a journalism student at Temple University, a web producer for CSNPhilly.com, and runs Flyers Focus (http://flyersfocus.net/). He loves coffee, hockey and Pearl Jam -- preferably at once.

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