New York Rangers’ winger Marian Gaborik, according to ESPN.com, said he was “pressing” after game two at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
According to Rangers’ fans, Gaborik has been pressing all year long.
The 29-year-old winger muzzled any doubters last season with an explosive 86-point campaign, appearing in 10 less games than his point total. Since 2005, Gaborik was a point-per-game (or better) player … up until this year, that is, as the Czech sniper finished with 48 points in 66 games.
Compared to his career best year in 2009-2010, Gaborik’s shooting percentage dipped from 15.4 percent — a number he had been hovering at for the past few seasons (not including his 19.1 percent in the 17-game, injury-shortened season in Minnesota the year before coming to New York) — to 11.5 percent. For reasons unbeknownst to the everyday fan, Gaborik’s average time on ice (TOI) also dipped from 21:15 last year to 18:05 this year; a decrease in around three shifts per game.
He’s accumulated 23 points in 32 career playoff games, but interestingly enough, his average TOI in three playoff games this year is up to 23:38.
So what’s the story?
Gaborik holds the key to the Rangers’ future with Ryan Callahan out of the lineup.
Gaborik’s speed and release is tops in the NHL, second to only a handful of elite scorers in the NHL. He’s not a premier one-on-one player, but creates space with his speed along the boards and stops short when given support. The Rangers don’t push through the neutral zone with a ton of speed, mainly playing a dump and chase game with cycling down low when gaining possession. Gaborik likes to slip behind the defense with the stretch pass and does it quite well on occasion. Perhaps one of the Rangers’ best puck-movers is Michael Del Zotto, who didn’t shy away from the stretch pass, but he’s currently in the AHL with the Connecticut Whale. That said, the Rangers still boast several solid puck-moving defenseman, but the team is better suited to get in on the forecheck and not break in with the long pass or short drops through the neutral zone.
The winger seldom shoots from low-percentage angles, like an Ovechkin or Semin, but perhaps needs to start putting it on net from all over the ice (e.g. Erik Christensen). He’s been waiting an extra half-second to shoot and get a lot of mustard on his shot (mustardus maximus), which works against his quick release and how he abruptly changes angles before letting it go. Plus, his shot has been getting blocked because it’s slower and easier to predict. No Ovechtricks to be had there.
The effort isn’t in question for Gaborik, but the Rangers’ power-play isn’t particularly effective and one could argue that the coach’s line shuffling doesn’t work in his favor. Still, top-flight talent creates its own opportunities. Gaborik needs to hang near the net and take advantage of his hands in close, a place he hasn’t really been able to call home in this series; perhaps that’s a testament to the Caps’ physical blueline play and Neuvirth’s rebound control.
Yet for the Rangers, as long as someone is putting the puck in the net and they’re winning games, the spotlight is dimmed. The stage is set for this evening’s tilt, as the Garden faithful will be eager to show Washington Coach Bruce Boudreau its auditory prowess. While his skating has opened up the ice for others, Stanley Cup teams in the past few years received huge production from their best players, and unless Gaborik steps up to the level of the likes of Toews, Crosby or Zetterberg, his Rangers may be looking at another first-round departure — again at the hands of the Washington Capitals.
Many thanks to Derrick Bostrom (Bostworld) for the great image, check out his other stuff here…