Marian Gaborik is more than just an elite goal scorer; he’s the player that causes the Rangers lines to be appropriately allocated. Against Edmonton we saw what Gaborik can do with the puck; score on opponents almost at will. However perhaps more important than his scoring ability, is Gaborik’s presence and what that means to players such as Erik Christensen and Alex Frolov. With Gaborik to pass to, EC suddenly resembled (a poor man’s) Adam Oates. With Gaborik on the opposite wing Alex Frolov became Glenn Anderson to Jari Kurri (the less heralded winger….). Playing with an elite line mate made both players better. More importantly, playing with Gaborik made both players productive. Both Frolov and Christensen have struggled to be effective offensively this season but both looked transformed alongside an in-flight Gaborik.
Along with the benefit felt by Frolov and Christensen, Artem Anisimov’s line played against lesser opposition, as did Derek Stepan’s line, and both lines had subsequent success. Gaborik causes a rippling effect on the roster that makes the offensive side of the Rangers look that much deeper. The Rangers don’t (yet)have the high end skill of the Caps or the Pens and don’t have the overall physicality of the Flyers, nor do they have the defensive depth of the Bruins but with Henrik Lundqvist in net and all three lines healthy and contributing the Rangers can match these sides on a game-by-game basis. Over a playoff series the Rangers may still come up short but it’s this potential ability to match up with the East’s premier teams that evidences how critical Gaborik is as both a producer and as a singular element on the roster.
Allowing for current projections/career seasons from the trio of Anisimov, Dubinsky and Callahan; allowing for a healthy (from here on in) Gaborik and counting on a consistent ‘presence’ from Avery and the occasional flash from guys such as Frolov and the Rangers can have a good season this year, a season which by all accounts is transitional. There’s nothing like success to develop the kids. They may only be 9-7-1 and they may (most probably will) lose games in bunches but the season looks promising as long as Gaborik is on board.