That the New York Rangers are currently in a playoff spot is a tribute to how abjectly terrible the Metropolitan Division has been.
They’re scoring 2.10 goals per game, tied with the punchless New Jersey Devils for 27th in the League. They’re 24th at even strength, tied with noted disasters the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers. The Rangers have been shut out four times this season.
Of course, the optimistic view is that they’ve kept their collective heads above water until Rick Nash returns, which he will against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.
Nash has missed 17 games due to a concussion suffered on a Brad Stuart check on Oct. 8, for which Stuart was suspended for two games. He had three points in three games prior to the injury, another in a succession of concussions in his career.
Nash is a lethal goal scorer. He's a guy who is dangerous no matter where he is on the ice. He's a rare blend of size and strength mixed with remarkably soft hands, especially in close. It might take time for him to get back to where he was before he was injured. The timing needs some time to come back to him.
Be excited he's back. But also be ready to be a little patient. The Rangers can use him, and obviously it would be ideal for him to be back at 100% tonight, but that's not how these things work.
Hopefully, Nash remains healthy for the duration for the season. The Rangers are exponentially more dangerous offensively when he’s healthy and we’ve yet to really see how he plays in an Alain Vigneault system.
How to make sure Nash remains in the lineup? Noted anti-fighting pundit Larry Brooks of the New York Post believes it’s through fighting:
The Rangers cannot allow this sort of thing to happen again. They cannot allow their franchise forward to be abused. They must be willing and able to respond at the first sign of trouble.
Yes, it is true — I believe and have posited for years the NHL should ban fighting, but that does not mean I recommend any team in the league should unilaterally disarm itself.
Well, "years" is a bit much. It was back in 2007 when Brooks advocated that the Rangers goon up and beat up the Islanders.
“It simply is intellectually dishonest to claim commitment to reducing the number of concussions in hockey by legislating against checks to the head while blithely permitting players to punch each other in the head. The brain does not necessarily distinguish between punishments absorbed.”
But apparently it’s not intellectually dishonest to advocate that players punch each other in the head to reduce the number of Rick Nash’s concussions. The politics of convenience strike again.