Photo by Anna Enriquez
For years, pretty much going back to the final season or so of Jaromir Jagr’s tenure with the New York Rangers, the team has suffered with a lack of secondary scoring.
Even when Jagr was essentially replaced with Marian Gaborik, Gaborik had no one to help him, goal-wise.
But now, the Rangers do have secondary scoring, including six players with 10 or more goals. The issue is that they no longer have a primary scorer in Gaborik.
Gaborik has struggled all season, with just 11 goals to show for his troubles, none in the past eight games.
It’s taking its toll on the Rangers, who have not scored more than two goals in regulation since December 29. And that third goal was an empty-netter. You have to back to December 27 to find more than two regulation goals against a goalie who’s actually standing in the net.
Rangers’ coach John Tortorella is trying to figure out how to get Gaborik going. He’s subtlely picked at Gaborik in the press, encouraging him to step-up. And last night against the Flyers, he benched Gaborik for some random intervals in the second and the third periods.
The Gaborik issue is complicated. He has yet to find chemistry with anyone on the Rangers. He’s worked well with Vinny Prospal in the past, but Prospal is injured. He’s had some nice moments with Erik Christensen, who is also now out injured. But even those two never fully clicked with Gaborik. They were simply the most effective of all who auditioned for the linemate job.
But beyond that, while the Rangers do have secondary scoring, they have no other natural goal-scoring sniper other than Gaborik, so teams can play him closely and aggressively without worrying too much that someone else on his line is going to step-in and score.
Gaborik has always been played like that, but as he gets older, he simply can’t beat five guys anymore.
Gaborik is also very much in his own head. His shot is amazingly quick. He can launch a missile of a wristshot while barely moving his stick. The NHL doesn’t track surprise goals, but I imagine Gaborik historically has been in the top five or 10.
But now, immersed in a goal-scoring drought, Gaborik isn’t getting those kinds of shots off. He’s overworking the puck, looking for the perfect shot, and giving defenses plenty of time to get the puck off of his stick.
Tortorella seems be trying to help Gaborik through this, even has he’s reducing his ice time. Last night against the Flyers, Gaborik was given penalty kill time, which might have been an attempt to get Gaborik to stop thinking about scoring.
But without Gaborik returning to his goal-machine ways, the Rangers are going to have a tough second half of the season. They’ve managed to compensate through the first half, but you can see it starting to take its toll on the team. This season’s Rangers have scored (and defended) through brutally physical play and I’m not sure this young team has the legs to do that for another 35 games. This weekend’s games against Montreal and Philadelphia saw the Rangers looking exhausted for the first two periods of each game.
Larry Brooks has suggested the Rangers aren’t actively shopping Gaborik, but would certainly listen to trade offers. I can’t imagine, given his current state of production, any team would seriously make an offer, but that same thing has been said about many of the players Rangers’ GM Glen Sather has subsequently traded away.
Gaborik is a great player going through a tough time. He would probably have an easier time of it with more talented linemates to take some of the pressure off of him each shift, but since that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen any time soon, Gaborik and Tortorella need to figure out another way to get Gaborik his confidence along with some open ice.