You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
-The Dark Knight
The first time the New York Rangers came to Columbus this season, Rick Nash was on the injured reserve list recovering from a concussion. With the lockout last season and his injury, it took nearly two years for the former superstar to return to his first home in the NHL after he was traded away.
The Blue Jackets are a completely new addition to the Eastern Conference but the rivalries are already beginning to take hold, especially between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers, who are rivals with every team. However, now that we are closing in on the end of the regular season it seems that “playoff style hockey” is something that we are seeing more often. The impact between teams competing for the same spot in the same division can be huge.
Which was the case on Friday night.
The Rangers came into Columbus tied in points, with the Jackets holding the tie-breaker for the 3rd spot in the Metropolitan Division. With less than 15 games to go before the playoffs, this game was huge for both teams.
That emotional presence was very heavy right from the beginning. Rick Nash was booed by the sell-out crowd every time he touched the puck. I think this came as a surprise to some as it wasn’t necessarily deserved, but it should’ve been expected and in the end it definitely got to Nash.
The Jackets’ ex-superstar was trying so hard to score in this game. After a breakaway goal was waved-off by the referee he allowed the emotions to get the best of him and went after the Blue Jackets Vezina winning goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, with a good shove to his mask. One can only assume Bobrovsky was giving Nash his best Dikembe Mutumbo impression just beforehand, only to laugh at him after Nash lost his cool. Nash would finish the game with 0 points and 9 PIM.
In one second Rick Nash went from hero to villain.
To be fair, I should clarify that Rick Nash was not only taunted by fans, but Bobrovsky, relatively unnoticed except for a few Twitter users, was provoking Nash throughout the game, even taking him off of his feet in the 1st period.
The season series between these two teams is over, tied at 2 games apiece. However, it may not be the last time they see each other this season. With both teams so close together in the standings and the new playoff format, it could end up being a first round matchup in the playoffs.
Ryan Johansen and the new era in Columbus
Without a superstar last season, the Jackets came together to put one of the most exciting sprints to the playoffs that we’ve seen from any team in the last few years. If they can repeat and grind out the last few games above .500, they’ll finally get their second playoff berth in franchise history.
One thing the Jackets do have this year that they were missing last season was a game-breaker. Suddenly, Ryan Johansen has finally realized his potential and has become one of the best players in the league. Johansen’s 27 goals on the season is better than Nash’s 23. I did leave out the fact that Joey has played 15 more games, but he also has 52 points to Nash’s 35.
I guess the point I’m trying to close with is thank you for your service, Rick Nash. It truly was our pleasure to watch you pull the spin-o-rama as you entered the zone only to lose the puck over and over again.