Sniper Games: Plenty at stake tonight for Nash, Ovechkin
For two of the NHL’s top three goalscorers, this could be a spring to remember.
Or, one to forget.
Sure, it might be unfair and a bit elementary to draw such a thin line between success and failure -- win, you’re good! Lose, you’re bad -- but that’s what this Game 7 has ostensibly done for Washington captain Alex Ovechkin (who led the league in goals this year, with 53) and New York’s Rick Nash (who finished third, with 42.)
Nash’s postseason struggles are well documented. Since joining the Rangers, he’s suited up for 52 playoff games and scored just seven times -- a per-game rate of 0.13, well off his regular season average as a Blueshirt (0.47).
“It was frustrating when you feel like you’re letting your guys down and your organization down by not scoring,” Nash said after scoring his first of the series -- on 21 shots -- against the Caps in Game 6, per NHL.com.
“Obviously, [goals] have been hard to come by.”
Nash is 31 in June. He’s now officially past the halfway point of his monster eight-year, $62.4 million deal and while he did enjoy a renaissance regular season -- how many post a career-high in goals in their 12th year? -- there are those that believe his legacy is now tied to what he does, or more specifically what he doesn’t do, in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Which brings us to Ovechkin.
After starting this series with aplomb -- highlight-reel markers in both Games 1 and 2 -- the Washington captain has gone silent in a similar fashion to Nash; plenty of shots on goal (17 in the last four games) but no production to show for it (pointless over that same stretch.)
The similarities to Nash don’t end there. Ovechkin was brilliant in his 10th year in the league; he posted his highest goal total in six years and a career-best 25 PPG.
But in the playoffs -- yes, like Nash -- scoring in the clutch has proved problematic. Ovechkin went goalless over the final three games of the Islanders series and heads into tonight’s tilt goalless in four. If the mounting pressure of those streaks wasn’t enough, Ovechkin put some more on his shoulders by guaranteeing a Caps win at MSG.
Ovechkin also knows it’s on him to follow through with that guarantee.
“We have chances but we have to make one or two steps,” he said, per NHL.com. “It starts for myself. I have to create more opportunities in front of the net, use the body and try to get the shot through.”
Reputation and legacy are fickle, nebulous things. Nash and Ovechkin head into tonight’s action as two of their generation’s premier goalscorers and while it’s crazy to think their reputations and legacies will be forged by a victory in Round 2, it’s not crazy to think either guy will take a sizable hit by losing -- especially if they’re held off the scoresheet.
“I’m supposed to score goals,” Nash said, per the Record. “Hopefully they go in.”