Monday, May 12, 2014

Rick Nash is not alone - Eight more struggling playoff stars

Rick Nash watch: Day 25. Two more shots on goal Sunday night against the Penguins. That brings the total to a league-leading 51. Yet still no … what do they call those things? Where the puck goes in the net and the red light goes on? It’s been so long, nobody can remember.

Luckily for Nash, misery loves company. And the Rangers winger has plenty of company around the league in the “struggling superstar” club. Here’s a look at one player from each of the eight remaining teams who is mired in an offensive drought.

Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens

Montreal’s leading scorer doesn’t exactly have a long résumé of postseason success. His only prior playoff experience came last season, when he went pointless in four games, and he’d managed just a lone assist through the first three against the Lightning in the opening round. But he seemed as if he may have finally broken through when he scored the winning goal in Game 4, helping the Canadiens complete the sweep and setting up a second-round matchup with the Bruins.

But so far Boston has shut him down; he’s had no goals and two assists over the first five games. The Bruins have a habit of doing that — there may not be a team that’s better at it, and Pacioretty himself has acknowledged that Zdeno Chara is dominating their matchup. That can’t be an easy admission to make given the two players’ history, but it’s the reality.

Tonight’s Game 6 is in Montreal, meaning the Habs can use the last line change to try to get Pacioretty away from Chara (though the Bruins are generally very good at countering that strategy). If he can get going, Montreal has a decent shot at extending the series to a seventh game. If not, fans and media in this market will make sure he hears about it.

Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings

Richards has been held to just three points through 11 games. That’s nothing to write home about, but it’s also not the sort of thing that would ordinarily cause Kings fans to panic. After all, Richards hasn’t been a top scorer since he arrived in L.A. Instead, he’s built on his reputation as a solid two-way player who plays tough minutes against the opposition’s best players. You’d like to see him chip in offensively, sure, but you can live with lower scoring totals as long as he’s holding his opponents in check and making the players around him better.

But Richards hasn’t really done that, either; through the postseason, he’s yet to be on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal for (but has been on for five against). He has been on for more 5-on-5 shots for than against, which suggests he should be OK once the percentages start to even out. The question is whether the Kings will be able to last long enough against the surging Ducks for that to happen.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

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