Marian Gaborik is enjoying only his third year as a member of the New York Rangers organization, but already he is a name that will forever be recognized in Blueshirt history.
Gaborik’s breakaway goal on Tim Thomas in the first period of Sunday’s tilt with the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden, as you know, was the Slovak Sniper’s 40th of the 2011-12 season. Anyone who can net forty in today’s NHL is considered ‘elite’, but there’s something more to this self achievement by Marian than just becoming top three in the League in goals scored for the year.
For starters, this is the second time in three seasons with the Rangers that Gaborik has reached the 40-goal mark. With that, he becomes only the third player in franchise history to score 40 more than once for the team. The other two? Oh, just guys by the name of Jean Ratelle and Mike Gartner.
Take that a step further and you’ll find out that Gabby has now reached 40 goals three times in his career. We’ve seen goal scoring flukes many times in the past (ahem, Jonathan Cheechoo), but Gabby surely does not fall under that category. He’s a top sniper in this league and the stats are there to prove it.
But the most remarkable aspect of Gaborik’s glorious season is his rebound from one year to the next. 2010-11 was a nightmare for Gabby, at least by his terms, as he only notched 22 goals and 48 points. He played through injuries, he had zero puck luck and the summer to follow brought disaster with it. He lost two of his closest friends in Derek Boogaard, who passed late last spring, and then Pavel Demitra, who was involved in the tragic Lokomotiv plane crash in Russia in late summer.
Marian did not sulk and feel bad for himself, though. He used all of this to his advantage by transferring it to motivation. Motivation he’s carried with him from training camp until now to regain that blazing speed and lightning release. In my opinion, that’s the real definition of ‘elite’. He’s been an inspiration to many with what he’s been able to accomplish this year.
Now to view all of this from a current Rangers’ standpoint, Gaborik has been the nucleus of the team’s offense this season without a doubt. He’s scored nearly 20-percent of the club’s goals on the year, seven of which have been game-winners, and he leads the team in points by a substantial margin.
Gaborik’s importance to the Rangers in 2009-10 was immeasurable because he was the one and only source of scoring. His value to the club then dropped majorly last season, but it’s rebounded drastically this year. He’s had more help with Brad Richards and others stepping in and putting points on the board, but Gabby is right behind Henrik Lundqvist on the list of importance right now. Without him, the Blueshirts would not be leading the Eastern Conference at the moment – he’s been that good.
But number 10’s fantastic story of 2011-12 is not over yet. Three games remain on the regular season schedule and then comes the postseason, where the Rangers will need his production the most. Typically, especially with the Rangers, playoff games are low scoring and often seek that one difference maker to step up and be a hero. Gaborik has all of the traits that make up that hero, so he can and will be a key piece to the puzzle if New York makes a deep run in the spring.
As noted above, Gaborik has already re-wrote Ranger history with what he’s been able to do this season. But imagine how he will be remembered if he can help lead this team to a Stanley Cup. People will doubt he and his teammates, but Gabby has already proved that the motivation/determination sure as hell has him stopping at nothing.
Don’t underestimate just how strong this guy’s shoulders are and how far he can carry this team on them. You saw the way he hauled that Christmas tree to his apartment on HBO 24/7, didn’t you? (kidding, kidding)
Once again, Gaborik’s 40th from Sunday: