The New York Rangers are out for a bit of redemption in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, as the Los Angeles Kings ran roughshod over them in last year’s Cup Final, taking the series four games to one. The Rangers played like a team possessed this regular season, securing the Presidents' Trophy with the best record in the league (52-23-7, 113 points). They are the favorites in Las Vegas to win the Stanley Cup this year, but they won’t be able to do that if these three players don’t live up to expectations:
Nash led his team with 42 goals and 69 points this season, but will he deliver in the playoffs? It’s a legitimate question, as his performance in the 2014 playoffs left plenty to be desired. Nash only put up three goals (none of which came in the Cup Final) and seven assists in 25 games, with a woeful shooting percentage of 3.6. At least it was slightly better than his one goal and four assists on 2.4 percent shooting in the 2013 playoffs. Nash’s shooting percentage suggests he’s letting the pressure get to him in crunch time. There are already signs that fatigue is getting to Nash right now, as he’s only put up seven goals and 14 points since Feb.16. Nash needs to erase his bad postseason reputation and put up some goals when it matters most.
Hayes was electrifying in his rookie season, amassing 17 goals and 45 points in 79 games. The 22-year-old phenom defied the modest expectations the Rangers had for him this year and he quickly made his way up the depth chart with his contributions in both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game. Now Hayes will get his first taste of playoff hockey, and we’ll see how he handles the pressure. He is just one of the young guns at forward that the Rangers have built a perennial contender with.
Miller, just a reserve player with the Rangers the last two seasons, took on a much more important role in 2014-15 as he provided some secondary scoring, putting up 10 goals and 23 points in 58 games played. He was virtually no factor in last year’s playoffs, scoring zero goals in just four games played, but Miller will see much more ice time this year. The Rangers will lean on him heavily if a top line scorer gets injured or goes cold. Scoring depth is vital in the NHL playoffs, and the Rangers will have it if Miller steps up.