Marian Gaborik and the New York Rangers have legged out a five game win streak after a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. The Rangers (8-3-3) are finally playing up to expectations after a long road trip to start the season left them handicapped as Madison Square Garden continued its now infamous transformation project.
Clearly Gaborik is the offensive leader of this team and has always meant to be after a relatively disappointing season last year as he battled injuries (48 points in 62 games). Gaborik, assuming he stays healthy, will be in the 40-plus goal range this year. He already has nine goals through 14 games this season with six assists. In the win over Ottawa, Gaborik extended his point streak to four games with two goals.
Many thought Brad Richards and Gaborik would be the go-to combo for the Rangers this season. Not so far. The line of Gaborik, Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov combined for seven points Wednesday including all three goals for the Rangers. Gaborik and Stepan in particular have found some chemistry, creating plenty of scoring chances. While this team has yet to solidify any sort of consistent lines night in and night out, head coach John Tortorella was continuously making tweeks to the lines last night, the combination of Stepan and Gaborik seems to be working.
The most consistent player on the Rangers, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, continues to keep the team competitive no matter who they play. Meanwhile, last year's points leader Brandon Dubinsky seems to be a little lost on the ice; he has been on his own island drifting between lines and the last time he racked up a point was on Halloween. For a player who had 54 points last year, to have no goals and six assists at this point in the season has to be a disappointment for him.
Major media and hockey blogs have continued to be transfixed by the relationship between Tortorella and Sean Avery. The notorious player who was sent down to the minors, cleared waivers, and brought back into the lineup just a few weeks back has fortunately not turned into a sideshow now that he is back on the team. He has been contributing when allowed.
Avery had a fight Wednesday against Zenon Konopka, but with a little over five minutes of ice time per game, it is hard to become an issue when you keep the bench warm. Even being a fan favorite can’t help you from being in the coach’s dog house and being the benches proverbial ‘grocery stick’.
Looking ahead to next few games for the Rangers, they will have a home game Friday against Carolina, and then go on the road for a four game trip to face regular Eastern Conference foes: the Islanders, Canadiens, Panthers and Capitals. With continued consistency, the Rangers have set themselves up nicely for this road trip against teams who are all looking vulnerable at this point in the season.
The Rangers started slow, but are picking up steam. The five wins in a row have put the Blueshirts two points behind division-leading Pittsburgh. If Gaborik keeps scoring, look for the Rangers to keep winning.
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