NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: The New York Rangers bench reacts during their 2 to 3 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 16, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
I've been a big defender of Gaborik's game through the first two rounds of the playoffs, looking at the bigger picture and realizing that the opposing teams have taken a major focus on giving him as little space as possible. Even so, Gaborik scored the game-winning goal in triple overtime, scored a goal that kept the Rangers in Game 4 against the Washington Capitals and scored a fluke goal in Game 6 in the same series.
That's what the leading scorer on your team is supposed to do. Well, that and make plays. And while Gaborik wasn't scoring as much as he would have liked in then first two rounds, he was still making plays. There have, however, been games in which he has had absolutely no factor in the result. And that's a problem.
Join me after the jump for more.
Here is the thing, while he hasn't gotten as much ice time, when Kreider is playing top-six minutes he makes things happen. He was the Rangers' best player Wednesday night, scoring a power play goal and coming inches from the first two-goal game of his career. That's hefty praise for an NHL rookie who walked into the playoffs with as much NHL regular season ice time as I have.
But that's what he's done. And it's what Gaborik hasn't done on a consistent basis.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Gaborik has been horrible all postseason, he hasn't. What he has been is invisible in stretches where its hurt the Rangers. For a $7.5-million man, that earns you some time on the hot seat.
But this also begs the question: Which Ranger hasn't gone cold at one poin or another?
Brad Richards has been the Rangers' best forward in the playoffs, and he too has struggled in some games. Dan Girardi had one of the worst defensive outings in the playoffs during Game 1 against the New Jersey Devils. Derek Stepan didn't score his first point until Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators. Artem Anisimov has only come alive in the second half of the playoffs (at least in terms of offense). Brian Boyle hasn't scores since the first round.
What I'm trying to say is that the Rangers have all gone cold at one point or another. It happens. But when you're a 40-goal scorer who is supposed to lead the offense, it needs to happen less than everyone else. As of right now, that's not the case.
And that's a problem.
But Kreider nearly took care of business himself Wednesday night, coming inches from potentially winning that game for the Rangers. Which is how this team has been all season, someone always steps up.
It didn't happen in Game 2. The Rangers are looking to make it happen in Game 3. Maybe Gaborik will be there to help.
They can use him.