New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella decided to have his three best forwards (Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik) play on the same line against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, and the results were immediately positive.
After starting the season with Carl Hagelin at left wing alongside Richards and Nash, Tortorella made the right decision to put Gaborik back where he belongs on the top line. The outcome was a 4-3 overtime victory.
The "$27.1 million line" accounted for 15 of the team's 33 shots on the night, and was involved in three of the four goals New York scored.
These three stars formed an almost unstoppable line against the Bruins, who are arguably the best defensive team in the NHL. Gaborik, Nash and Richards were chosen as the three stars of the game and had very impressive stat lines.
Coaches often like to spread out their talent and not put their three most talented forwards on the same line, but when you have a threesome like Richards, Gaborik and Nash, it's best to keep these superstars together because they compliment each other so well.
Richards is a veteran playmaker who excels in the faceoff dot and is the perfect center for an elite goal scorer with exceptional speed such as Gaborik.
Nash gives the line a top-tier power forward who can impact games physically, score goals and set up teammates with scoring chances thanks to his underrated playmaking ability.
This line's chemistry is already fantastic, and this was evident on the Rangers' first goal against the Bruins on Wednesday night. The pin-point passing by Richards and Nash, in addition to the patient and expert finishing by Gaborik, was just beautiful to watch.
Gaborik scored zero goals in the team's first two games, but once he started playing with Nash and Richards on Wednesday, he scored his 14th career hat trick (5th with NYR) against the Bruins to help his team earn a much-needed win.
Nash and Gaborik nearly won the game in the final minute of the third period but they both had shots stopped by Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. Just 27 seconds into overtime, Gaborik ended the game with a fantastic goal that showed off his brilliant hand-eye coordination after Rask saved his initial shot.
Whenever this line stepped onto the ice, the Rangers were creating chances and spending a lot of time in the attacking zone.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien tried to match up his top defenseman Zdeno Chara with the Nash-Richards-Gaborik line as much as he could, but it still didn't stop this trio from dominating the game.
It's very rare that a coach has a line with the amount of size, skill and veteran experience that the Nash-Richards-Gaborik line gives the Rangers, so there's no reason to break up this combination as long as they are creating chances and giving opposing teams fits.
It's always smart to have your best playmaker (Richards) centering the team's two best goal scorers (Nash and Gaborik).
Derek Stepan is a good center and a quality offensive player, but playing him with Gaborik and/or Nash isn't going to allow these veterans to maximize their offensive production.
With the Rangers playing their next three games against teams with defensive woes (Philadelphia Flyers twice, Toronto Maple Leafs), Tortorella must keep his top line intact because it gives his team the best chance to win.
Nash, Gaborik, and Richards are playing with a lot of confidence and chemistry right now, and breaking them up would be a huge mistake. As they showed last night, when these stars player well together, the Rangers have the best line in the NHL.
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