What's old is new again.
Riley Nash had a career year with the Boston Bruins in 2017-18.
He scored 15 goals, totaled 40 points, and was about to hit the free-agent market – and when you show that you can anchor a top line and drive play for a good team, chances are you're on the cusp of a pay raise. And the Bruins, loaded with forwards and with talented kids coming, really couldn't afford to give a multi-year deal to Nash.
In the Blue Jackets, Nash found a team that needed a center and was willing to give him a three-year deal. The hope was that Nash could build upon his strong season and add competitive depth down the middle for the Blue Jackets, who weren't sure what to expect from Alexander Wennberg and had to account for a declining Brandon Dubinsky and young star in Pierre-Luc Dubois (sophomore slumps are real, sometimes...but not for Dubois).
And guess what? It didn't go as anyone hoped.
Nash struggled. Big time.
He couldn't find a home in the lineup but managed to stay in the mix, mainly for his versatility and mistake-free game. Those 15 goals he scored a year ago were an afterthought, though...it simply didn't happen for Nash on the offensive end of the ice, but John Tortorella trusted his veteran center to fight through it.
Nash's first goal of the season? Nov. 29, against Minnesota.
Nash's second goal of the season? Mar. 28, against Montreal.
Now, Nash and his new team face his former team in the Eastern Conference semifinal – a series that doesn't feature much connective tissue between the two clubs, other than the fact they faced each other three times in the last month of the regular season. The Bruins won two of those three games, but the Blue Jackets put a big-time hurting on Boston on Mar. 12 at Nationwide Arena.
Nash's game has settled in, however; Tortorella slotted him on a line with Boone Jenner and Dubinsky, an "identity line" of sorts that forechecks, sees a lot of defensive zone ice time, and wears down opponents. They were excellent in the first-round win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Nash supplied perhaps the biggest goal of Game 2 – a rising rocket that put the game out of reach in the third period.
In a year of transition, Nash is coming around at the right time.
The Blue Jackets are a deeper, more competitive team with him playing well, which enables Tortorella to roll his lines and keep the players fresh. Against a four-line team in Boston that Nash is quite familiar with already, he and his line will be an important cog in the Blue Jackets' potential for success.