Friday, February 11, 2011

Marian Gaborik Will Skate His Way Back To Form Beginning Tonight

The Rangers need their star sniper, Marian Gaborik, to start producing.  There is no grand revelation in that statement and few have been more critical of his struggles than I have.  The revelation for me comes in the form that his resurgence will begin tonight.  The fact that the Rangers as a team and many individuals are having surprisingly good seasons only seeks to heighten the negative year Gaborik is having and I have clearly expressed that frustration on occasion.  My issue with Gaborik has never been purely results based, but rather about the mentality he appears to be playing with this season and I am hopeful that part will change starting tonight.  I am sure that when that part shifts, the results will take care of themselves.
I look for the fact that the Rangers have kept the mood positive, the extra practice time and the consistency of lines to push Gaborik forward tonight and skate like he has in his better games this year.  I expect that Marian will start going to the front of the net more and getting those “vulture” goals that made his season last year. 
What might have started as an injury issue developed into a confidence issue and while with some the prodding and tough love seem to be helpful, that does not seem to be the case with Gaborik.  To be clear, I am not saying he is soft or that he doesn’t care because he strikes me as a star who does and that fact might have become his problem through all of this.  The level at which Gaborik does care and does understand his importance to this team causes him to put more pressure on himself, which leads to him playing a tight game.  This manifests itself in looking for the perfect play instead of just taking the simple one.  It is on a larger scale the same problem that Michael Del Zotto has faced this year, but the better correlation might be with Ilya Kovalchuk.
When the year began Kovalchuk spent so much time and energy in trying to fit into the system that he forgot how to play his game as an addition to that system.  That has changed in New Jersey for Kovalchuk as you watch him now and his gallup has returned and he is back to playing his style of hockey.  Now Gaboirk will do the same.  On the surface, the things that Gaborik does best and the new Rangers identity seem to clash.  On the ice it manifests itself in Gaborik being content to dump the puck in and play along the wall instead of doing what he does best; skate. 
From Arthur Staple’s piece on Gaborik:
"It starts with his legs. He's a freak as far as the way he can skate," Tortorella said. "If we can get him moving his legs, the rest will come. Sometimes, when a goal-scorer isn't scoring goals, he needs to stop thinking about scoring goals. Just do the work and the results will come."
The Rangers need Marian to be that dynamic threat that everyone in the building rises to their feet every time he touches the puck.  The need to opponent’s to fear him on every shift.  They need him to get back to doing what makes him so dangerous to play against.  That begins with his skating and carrying the puck instead of dumping it in.  It continues with shooting off the rush as it will create not only space, but rebounds for his teammates. 
When it becomes consistent all the talk will stop and the love will begin again.  I believe that transition begins tonight.  Maybe I am being overly optimistic, which would be a change, but playing the negative side on Gaborik has not helped the Rangers out at all, so time to try something different.  Let’s have a little faith because the there is no doubt the talent is still in there and if we believe in Gaborik enough, maybe, just maybe he will find it in himself.