Well Ranger fans you just got over your first (and hopefully only) Marian Gaborik injury. His absence revealed a few major flaws in this Rangers team and lead some Ranger fans (and yes I am looking at some of you, you know who you are) to the ledge.
With Gaborik in the line-up the Rangers are quite obviously a different team. When Gaborik is on the ice the power play seems more lethal, the other teams defenses don't seem as comfortable and the Rangers overall are a more dangerous team offensively.
There have been some pleasant offensive surprises such as Valclav Prospal (4g 14a), Ales Kotalik (5g 7a), Michael Del Zotto (4g 8a) and Enver Lisin (4g 4a) just to name a few. But there have also been some offensive disappointments (meaning their offensive numbers not their overall play) including Chris Drury (2g 3a), Ryan Callahan (2g 3a) and especially Chris Higgins (0g 2a).
With Gaborik in the line-up the Rangers are 9-3-1, without him they are 0-2. Gaborik's 11 goals are first on this team by a mile, the next closest player is Kotalik with 5 goals and then Prospal and Del Zotto with 4. Secondary scoringhas been a problem for this team with Callahan and Drury onlynotching two goals each so far and Higgins with no goals. Gaborik's play has covered their tracks so far, but as we saw during his two game injury other people need to start scoring in order for this team to reach the next level.
Join me after the jump.
Let's be honest here. You don't need me to tell you how vital Marian Gaborik is to this team. So here is my question: Should John Tortorella not use Gaborik on the penalty kill in order to keep him fresh and injury free?
As a team the Rangers have taken 69 penalties in their 15 games this season, which works out to 4.6 penalties a game (or roughly 9 minutes of penalties a game). John Tortorella does not try to hide his penalty kill strategy, which is to use his top guys to kill penalties in hopes for short handed offensive opportunities. So it should be no surprise that Marian Gaborik is currently averaging 1:56 minutes a game, which means he is killing about 20% of the penalties the Rangers take each game.
Now while two extra penalty kill minutes might not seem like a lot take this into account. Gaborik is currently 4th on the team in shifts per game, with 26.2 shits per every game played, and is first among forwards. And when it comes to Tortorella's up-tempo system every shift is grueling and filled with sprint skating up and down the ice to join offensive rushes and help with defensive responsibilities.
Killing penalties can be just as grueling, especially if you are covering the point--which is where Gaborik plays defense on the penalty kill where he looks for wayward passes to take into the offensive zone. Covering the point requires Gaborik to skate from point to point, head to the corners if there is a scrum and even skating the puck into the offensive zone if he sees an opening.
So you be the judge on this one. Do you think that Tortorella should lessen Gaboriks penalty kill burden altogether. Or should Tortorella save Gaborik's penalty killing time for when the Rangers are down in a big game or need a spark to turn momentum? What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments.