BRIGHTON, Mass – It was really a great unknown what 33-year-old Rick Nash was going to be able to bring to the Bruins in the playoffs after missing most of the season’s last month with a concussion. Nash never made it back into the B’s lineup for any kind of dress rehearsal regular season games ahead of the postseason, but it apparently wasn’t necessary for a veteran power forward that’s been a big-bodied factor in Boston’s first two games vs. Toronto.
It was Nash that drew penalties in Game 1 with his puck possession game while playing keep-away from the Toronto defense, and that led to power play production on Thursday night.
“It’s a new playoff for me just trying to take it as it comes,” said Nash. “I’ve had three and a half weeks off so it’s been a bit of a battle for me, trying to get my speed up. When you win it seems like everything goes right.”
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In Saturday’s Game 2 it was time for Nash to get on the score sheet and he did exactly that with a power play strike camped right in front of the net in Boston’s 7-3 romp over the Maple Leafs at TD Garden.
“His impact has been tremendous, right from [Game 1], from the first shift on. His speed is obviously something they have to be aware of – it kind of makes their defensemen aware -- and he has that chemistry with David [Krejci] and Jake [DeBrusk],” said Patrice Bergeron. “It’s been a very good line for us. So, you’re right, his impact has been great.”
Nash finished with the PP goal and six shot attempts in Saturday night’s win with the B’s top line taking most of the accolades, but the Bruins now that the big right winger is going to be an important piece in their postseason run. Eventually the offense is going to slow down for Patrice Bergeron’s line during Boston’s postseason run, and that’s when the B’s second line needs to playing that big supporting role. The Bruins had three 30-goal scorers this season in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, but they didn’t have even one other 20-goal scorer among a number of B’s players that cracked double-digits this season. Nash is the kind of talented offensive finisher that can provide that level of offensive punch, and brings the size/strength element for a mostly undersized, young forward group up front.
“At the end of the day, he’s an important player for us. That deal was made for a reason. He’s an elite player, so unfortunately, we lost him for a stretch there, but we saw it before he got hurt. [He] makes us more of a threat of a team,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s just a proven player in this league that can finish, that can win pucks and get to the net.”
The power forward size and strength, and net-front abilities, are exactly the kinds of skills that are going to factor in a much bigger way during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and that’s already started to happen two games in with Nash and Boston.