Wednesday, January 19, 2011
W2W4: Maple Leafs vs. Rangers
By Mike Hume
The Rangers look to end their two-game slide when the battle the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Garden tonight. Here are three factors to watch for when the action starts.
Can Gaborik Get Going?
How will Marian Gaborik react to his benching by head coach John Tortorella? Can he get his offensive game rolling? Will he add some grind tonight? I think the key to interpreting Tortorella's words and actions towards his top scorer is production. Tortorella wants his players contributing in some way, shape or form. I don't think he's looking for Gaborik to take a run at Colton Orr, but he is asking him to add something to the effort if he's not scoring. He wants to see his forward dig for loose pucks and drive the net, not just lurk in shooting lanes or near the blue line while waiting for other players to set up a shot or breakout opportunity. Just my read, but I think it's an accurate one.
The Rangers have just one power-play goal in their last 17 opportunities. The Blueshirts have helped counter that lack of productivity by allowing only two PPGs over their last 19 shorthanded chances, but New York simply needs to get its power play together. What strikes me about the Rangers' PP (15.6 percent for the season) is that the team plays a very different style with a man up than they do 5-on-5. The blue-collar work ethic goes out the window and suddenly the Rangers become a team of delicate passes and overhandling the puck. Tortorella's harped on the latter point extensively this season. He wants quick passes to move the defenders and open shooting lanes so the Rangers can get pucks on the net. After the shot, crash the goal in search of a rebound. Rinse. Repeat.
Wednesday's Rangers and Leafs match-up marks the fourth and final meeting between these clubs this season. The previous three meetings were all tight affairs -- 4-3 Leafs in OT; 2-1 Rangers; 2-0 Rangers -- which you'd expect from teams with similar philosophies on how to play the game (taking the body is just as effective as taking the puck). Expect a tense game at the Garden Wednesday night.