TORONTO – With just two five-on-five goals produced in five playoff games thus far, it’s pretty clear the second line for the Boston Bruins could step up in the possession and the production department. They did post an important goal in Game 4 when David Krejci tossed a saucer pass to Jake DeBrusk for the insurance goal in the big win at the Air Canada Centre, and both Krejci and DeBrusk do have even-strength goals thus far in the series.
But big power forward Rick Nash? The main trade deadline acquisition hasn't scored during even-strength play, and has only one power-play goal, in the Game 2 blowout at TD Garden. Nash is third on the Bruins with 18 shots on net and has had his share of chances skating with Krejci and DeBrusk, but that hasn’t turned into goals.
Given how heavily the Bruins top line has carried the offense thus far in the series and how the B’s fourth line has kicked in four even-strength goals of their own during the playoff series against Toronto, it is time for the 6-foot-4, 220-pound skilled big man to pick up the offensive production. A big game from Nash somewhere along the way would go a long way toward Boston winning a playoff series, and would give the Bruins another dimension to their offense beyond the Bergeron Line and their top drawer power play.
Bruce Cassidy wasn’t really ready to make a read on whether Nash was struggling or snake-bitten based on few games he coached him in after the trade deadline due to injury. But it’s obvious that the Bruins are going to need more diversified offense when/if they go up against teams with a little more defensive wherewithal and quality personnel than the Maple Leafs.
“The puck is finding him because he’s smart and because he’s fast, and, you know, because he’s got good hands,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s just that finish. This time of year you need a little more oomph on it. Everything else is falling into place right now except for that last piece, which is getting it by the goaltender.
“Hopefully it happens for him. I haven’t coached him long enough to know if this is typically the way it happens where it’s volume of shots and they eventually go in. Or if it’s that his sights are a little bit off. The good part is that the puck is finding him, and it’s problematic for guys when the puck isn’t finding them. That’s when you know that you’re not right. So we’ll continue to stress the importance of getting to the right spots and now it’s a matter of getting it past [the goalie].”
Clearly the size, strength, speed and hands are all still there for Nash, even if they aren’t there as consistently from shift-to-shift and game-to-game as they might have been for him 10 years ago when he was lighting it up in Columbus.
Certainly the shot attempts are evidence that Nash is able to carry and possess the puck against the Leafs defense in their zone, and that Krejci is delivering on his end as a playmaker helping to create chances for his big power forward. And it’s also abundantly true that Nash doesn’t have to come close to carrying the Bruins offense with a couple of top line scorers in Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak that are creating chances, and scoring, often when they’re out on the ice.
But it’s time for Nash to be the support scorer they planned on him being when they gave up a boatload of assets to the Rangers at the trade deadline to land the former All-Star and No. 1 overall pick. This might have been a big ask for Nash when he was a younger player with the Blue Jackets that famously scuffled in the postseason, but the right winger was certainly a good enough player for the Rangers in his last few postseasons with the Blueshirts. So that postseason underachiever tag shouldn't really apply anymore to a player that's proven he can do it in Stanley Cup playoffs of the past.
The Bruins offense is too top heavy right now, and that’s going to end up catching up to them down the line in the postseason if the 33-year-old Nash can’t start finding the range on some of these shots and chances that keep coming his way.