After arguably their best win of the season Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, the Rangers start this week back on their heels after losing a pair of games this weekend.
Bested by the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday and the East-leading Philadelphia Flyers
on Sunday, the Rangers find themselves in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and with a star scorer still MIA.
If you’re wondering where Marian Gaborik was for long stretches against the Flyers, you needed to look no further than the Rangers bench. Skating a little over 12 minutes in the game, head coach John Tortorella said he’s got to get more production from the team’s highest-paid player, who’s posted just 11 goals to date this season.
As Jesse Spector pointed out in his blog Monday, Gaborik is one of several NHL stars who have struggled to find the back of the net this season, a list that includes the Caps' Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, who combined for 90 goals in 2009-10.
While the Washington Capitals are still in fifth place despite the dip in goal-scoring, the Rangers aren't exactly drowning in natural goal-scorers and simply can’t afford to lose production from Gaborik over the long term. It’s likely for that reason that Tortorella sat his star against the team’s biggest rival.
There have been two comments in recent press conferences that seem to apply to this situation. The first came during the week when Tortorella believed his star scorer may have been a little snakebit, hitting a few posts, but never rippling the twine. At that time the coach mentioned he felt Gaborik was close to breaking through.
Those comments seem to indicate Tortorella was happy with Gaborik’s game overall and he felt the goals would come in time. The postgame comments on Sunday -- “We need production from him. We’ve got guys grinding their assess off to develop scoring chances, we need some of our skill guys to score a goal for us.” -- would seem to indicate otherwise.
When the Rangers acquired Wojtek Wolski, who brought with him a reputation for playing a little soft at times, Tortorella noted that no player on his team was exempt from adding grind to their game. “Grind” is not a term synonymous with “Gaborik.” Goal-scoring can alleviate the focus on the blue-collar work ethic to an extent, but when the red-light doesn’t get lit, the light shining down on Gaborik is not a flattering one in Tortorella’s eyes.
It will be interesting to see how Gaborik approaches Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Will he add some grind? Or more importantly, will he add some goals?
King Henrik trying to claim goaltending throne
Regular readers of ESPN.com’s hockey coverage may be familiar with Insider’s Player Power Rankings, provided by the metric-rich minds of Hockey Prospectus. That puck-crazy think tank uses a combination of stats to form their GVT valuation metric -- similar to WAR or VORP in baseball -- to appraise all NHL players each week, providing the top 10 skaters and top five goalies through that point in the season.
Insiders can see the full rankings here.