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Yup, Rick Nash can handle big-city pressure with Rangers (What We Learned)

Ryan Lambert
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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

One of the lazier narratives you see thrown around in all of sports happens when a player who has played his entire career in a small market moves to a big one, whether it's by trade or free agency.

Given the tendency of the New York Rangers to acquire such players in the last several years, like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards and now Rick Nash, it's getting to be a pretty familiar song and dance for that team in particular. All three have handled the transition remarkably well; but even after Gaborik scored 42 in his first season on Broadway, it's starting to look like you have to consider Nash the Rangers' best breakout acquisition in recent memory.

The numbers at this point are very, very good. Nine goals and 14 assists in 20 games, including two helpers in yesterday's win over Washington, and he's really only beginning to forge a cohesive partnership with Richards and Carl Hagelin. He started the season with all the criticism that you might expect for a name player making the small-to-big transition, because he had just two goals and seven points in his first 10, but since then? Lights out. Ten games. Seven goals. Nine assists. And that's despite missing nearly two weeks with an injury that definitely wasn't a concussion wink-nudge.

At this point, Nash has five two-point games in his last six outings, and it's impossible to envy the defensemen who have had to line up across from this top Rangers trio.

The reason is that the things Nash and Richards and Hagelin do separately make them impossible to deal with together. They serve as the perfect complements to each other, but all of it seems to run through the big man on the left side.

They're just so fun to watch, thanks to their combined astronomical skill levels and the way they seem to create scoring chances out of nothing, and nowhere was this more evident than on the Rangers' fourth goal yesterday that really and truly made the game a laugher. A super-aggressive puck pursuit from Brad Richards that started behind the Caps net led to a double-team along the right wing of the Washington zone, which in turn produced a turnover for Hagelin, who fed back to Richards, who dropped it to Nash as he stepped into the zone. The threat of a Rick Nash shot was, and is, just overwhelming, and consequently Richards found himself some space at the other side of the net while everyone gravitated toward the puck-carrier. But even as a blocked shot bounced away from Nash, Hagelin, with his speed, was quick to get to the loose puck as the defense collapsed, and got off a quick turnaround shot. Richards had a pretty easy tap-in rebound after that. Everything they do well, right there in the space of about 15 seconds.

One stat you hear a lot, and one which may be a little misleading, is that the Rangers are also 13-6-1 with Nash in the lineup, and 0-3-1 without him. Obviously no player in the history of hockey is going to have that kind of effect on whether a team is that good or that bad, but the way the Rangers are starting to play, led by Nash, Richards, and Hagelin, is enough to make one wonder just how far this team could go.

The criticism of the Nash trade to begin with was that the Rangers simply gave up too many bodies; not that the sum of Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky and Tim Erixon was greater than what New York got in return, but just that their subtraction and only Nash's addition thinned the Rangers out unnecessarily, and when Nash went down and missed four games, that looked like an even more credible argument. But losing a player of Nash's caliber would hurt a team at the top of the league just as much as it would one that was fighting for a playoff spot, and just because the Rangers fall into the latter category because of a slow start means very little in the grand scheme of even this shortened season.

A quick look at the schedule shows that the Rangers have won five of their last six games at this point, and given what we knew about them at the beginning of the season, you have to think they're going to keep up that trend, rather than be the team that lost four straight with Nash out of the lineup. They're excellent throughout the lineup and at every position, as you'd expect of a team that made the Eastern Conference Final last season and only got better in the offseason.

That "bright lights, big city" storyline doesn't hang so well on Nash, and hasn't since his first games with the team. While you hate to pin the Rangers' success or failure this season on whether he can keep putting up these kinds of point totals every night. But the way things are going all of a sudden, he very well could be the league's MVP this year.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Not a bad weekend for Ryan Getzlaf: He got his 500th career point and way too much money on Friday.

Boston Bruins: Here are the Boston Bruins scoring three times in 2:18 against the Flyers' defense because they got to play the Flyers' defense.

Buffalo Sabres: "Even keel helps Rolston keep Sabres on course." The problem, though, is that the course has them headed straight for some really jagged rocks and the prospect of being devoured by sirens.

Calgary Flames: Calgary hasn't started talking extension with Jarome Iginla which could portend a trade is on the horizon. Imagine if it happened? Sure it would be like two years too late, but still, wow. Calgary has also been outscored 10-2 in its last two games so I mean, now's the time, right?

Carolina Hurricanes: Chris Terry is on pace to become the greatest all-time goalscorer in NHL history. One game played, one goal. Can't beat that.

Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp is confirmed to be out between three and four weeks which means the Blackhawks will now lose as many games in regulation as they just went without doing so I think. That's how that works, right?

Colorado Avalanche: Here's a thing Matt Duchene said about how beating the Blackhawks made the Avs feel. He said this in real life: "It shows that we can play with anybody in this League." Yeah, about that. After that game you trailed Edmonton and Calgary in the standings.

Columbus Blue Jackets: I hate to break it to everyone but Sergei Bobrovsky has actually played well for the Blue Jackets this season. That's helped by his having gone 5-1-1 in his last seven with a 0.52 GAA and .981 save percentage. Nice little run there. But it's Sergei Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets, so let's not get too hyped up.

Dallas Stars: It's almost insane that Dallas didn't win on Saturday against the Coyotes. They had a pair of five-on-threes that lasted 90 seconds or more, and generally outpossessed them all game. Phoenix blocked 29 shots in the game and won 2-1.

Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Remember how everyone acted like the Bruins power play was embarrassing? The Red Wings' man advantage on the road is getting close; it's up (down?) to 0 for 36 on the season away the Joe. That's compared to 14 of 62 at home.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers are last in the Western Conference. Get comfortable.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers get an F for their first half of the season. I assume it stands for "Florida."

Los Angeles Kings: Slava Voynov is on a goal and six assists in his last four games and has arguably been better than Drew Doughty this season. Which, you know, is good.

Minnesota Wild: Boo hoo I'm Ryan Suter and I can't believe the fans in Nashville booed me after I took a ton of money from a conference rival and skipped town forever.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs entered Saturday night's third period down 3-1 but left with two points following a three-goal comeback capped by Brendan Gallagher getting all tough at the side of the net.

Nashville Predators: Did you know the Predators' offense is bad? It's bad. Fewest goals per game in the league. Ugly stuff.

New Jersey Devils: Please don't tell the Devils that Johan Hedberg is terrible. A) They know, but they don't have any other options. B) It's mean.

New York Islanders: Can you believe John Tavares is up to 100 career goals? In just three-plus seasons. And he's only getting better. Man I love John Tavares.

New York Rangers: Maybe the reason the Caps kept scratching Roman Hamrlik and then put him on waivers is that his conditioning stinks. "He's not in shape, yeah. He needs work,” said John Tortorella. "Especially, this will be our third game in less than four days. We need to try to help him as far as his conditioning and then we’ll see where we go from there." Have fun on that bike.

Ottawa Senators: Bryan Murray isn't sure whether he wants to start trading everyone or try to make the playoffs but here's a hint Bryan start trading everyone.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers had a 20-minute closed-door team meeting after Saturday's loss at Boston and you gotta think that was probably the last major decision of Peter Laviolette's career behind the bench in Philly. Hire Lindy Ruff!

Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 213 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days.

Pittsburgh Penguins: "Could Sidney Crosby hit 100 point-mark in abbreviated NHL season?" No. Thank you. Next question.

San Jose Sharks: Martin Havlat off to the IR. What else is new? He's played 59 games over the last two seasons.

St. Louis Blues: They thought about it for a little while but the Blues aren't going to sign free agent Jason Arnott. They arrnot going to do it. Because his name is a homophone of that. That's the joke.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa won six of its first seven games but have just four wins in the 18 games since. So that's not very good at all.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Sid Crosby honestly thinks the Leafs are a playoff team. I'm inclined to agree as long as Randy Carlyle stops giving people who aren't Nazem Kadri top minutes at center.

Vancouver Canucks: Starting to look like you can pencil in Vancouver for hosting the Heritage Classic next season. That sounds just about right, doesn't it?

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin thinks "you can't say nothing" to referees these days but I bet it's just because of how obvious his penalties have been lately.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets traded for Tomas Kubalik so start planning the parade.

Play of the Weekend

I showed it earlier but this no-look pass from Milan Lucic to Tyler Seguin to start the carnage in Boston was just beautiful.

Gold Star Award

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Shout out to Vladimir Sobotka for getting the Blues' first three goals in a 4-3 overtime win at San Jose. It was his first career multiple-goal game, and goals Nos. 2 and 3 came in the space of 1:20 in the third period. He also has six goals in his last five games, so I don't know what's going on with him.

Minus of the Weekend

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Really don't know what Bob Murray was thinking with that Getzlaf deal. It's awful.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "y2kcanucks" has a bright idea.

To Philadelphia:
Goalie (take your pick, not intending to make this a goalie debate thread)
Alex Edler
2nd round pick

To Vancouver:
Jakub Voracek
Sean Couturier
Braydon Coburn
1st round pick

Yup to all of that.

Signoff
There's some milk in the fridge that's about to go bad. And there it goes.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don’t you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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