Should the lines change even when Rick Nash is healthy?
The Rangers have been without forward Rick Nash for seven games now. A 42 goal scorer last year, Nash has been the most consistent and perhaps the most dynamic forward since the start of last year. An extended absence without the Rangers best forward should have been devastating.
But instead, they’re 5-2-0 since he’s been out of the lineup. The scoring and offensive production has been fine, and the team has worked well together, apart from the fourth line.
The main reason for this is the surprising outburst of production from the new look top line; Derick Brassard centering JT Miller and Jesper Fast. The trio has combined for 21 points in the last six games, playing big time minutes and scoring crucial goals.
Derick Brassard leads all Rangers with 40 points (18-22-40) this season, and he’s just one goal shy of tying his career high. JT Miller has stepped his game up from last year, tying or surpassing his totals in all of his offensive scoring categories, and scoring nine goals in the last 10 games for a total of 17 this season.
And Jesper Fast has fit in fantastically on the top line, similar to the role he played in the playoffs last season alongside Kreider and Stepan; a defensively responsible forward with speed and good enough skills to contribute offensively with good players. Fast has a goal and five assists in the last six games.
The line has worked so well together, Brassard’s playmaking skills have complemented JT Miller perfectly, and Fast has been excellent on the forecheck as well as contributing in all three zones. Vigneault may have found some magic with this combination, and I don’t think they should be broken up anytime soon.
When Rick Nash is healthy, I think it would be wise to put him on the second line, bumping Kreider down to the third pairing. Nash and Zuccarello have played well together in the past, and putting them together with Derek Stepan could help kick start his production.
Oscar Lindberg and Viktor Stalberg have been pretty sporadic with their scoring and production, and pairing Kreider with Kevin Hayes would give the second year center a more reliable, dynamic winger by his side. Hayes has great vision, and could definitely spring Kreider for some breakaways and quality chances.
Led by JT Millers goal scoring, the top line is just too good to take apart right now. Moving Nash to the second line and Kreider to the third line could help spread out the talent and production, and make more than just the top two lines an offensive threat.
This isn’t to say that Rick Nash would drag that line down. He’d play great there. Nash is a tremendously talented player, a consistent player that creates chances from all over the ice, and a proven goal scorer. The Rangers are a better team with him in the lineup. But I think there are benefits to keeping the current top line together.
Also, Dominic Moore deserves some better wingers. Daniel Paille has been pretty bad, and putting him with Tanner Glass has done the bottom six no good. Notice how Moore scored last night when he was on the ice without them? Viktor Stalberg with Moore and Glass is a much more ideal fourth line.
With Brassard and his new buddies; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Posted on February 11, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, Jesper Fast, JT Miller, Kevin Hayes, Madison Square Garden, Mats Zuccarello, MSG, New York Rangers, New York Rangers blog, NYR, Rangers, Rangers blog, Rick Nash. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.