Mon Jan 17 10:59am EST
After his team's 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella was asked about Marian Gaborik(notes); or, more specifically, the lack of Marian Gaborik in that defeat.
His total ice time was 12:45, having averaged 18:54 per game this season. He spent over eight straight minutes planted on the bench in the second period, and then nearly nine more in the third period.
"We need production. We need ... I'll leave it at that. We need production from him."
This being John Tortorella, possessing a mouth that was neither muzzled nor muted, it wasn't left at that.
"We had guys grinding their ass off, developing scoring changes. We need some of our skill guys to score a goal for us."
Gaborik hasn't, at least not since Jan. 1. Since scoring a hat trick against the New York Islanders on Dec. 2, Gaborik has three goals in 19 games. He's also not creating chances, having gone scoreless in 12 of the 19.
This was a player who posted 42 goals and 86 points in 76 games last season, silencing critics who challenged his durability and/or the investment the Rangers made in him.
What's gone wrong a year later?
Tortorella said Sunday night it's not for lack of effort, which would seem in direct contrast with his "grinding their ass off" comment, but there you go.
Jesse Spector of the NY Daily News spoke with Gaborik before Saturday night's game against the Canadiens:
"It's going to come eventually," Gaborik told the Daily News Friday. "It always has. I think every player, every guy that's a goal scorer goes through these. I know this year especially hasn't been going for me, so I just have to keep trying. The most important thing is the team goes well.
"Obviously, I haven't produced much lately," Gaborik said. "Obviously, in these type of games where it's a big game, I'm not giving up. I've just got to work harder and try to get out of it. That's just the bottom line. . . . Confidence is obviously a very big part. The last few games, I've felt good, I've created chances, and I think things were happening -- it just wasn't going in. Obviously, it surprised me tonight that I got benched there, but it's the coach's decision. Bottom line, I just have to produce and help this team to win games."
The Rangers are 5-4-1 in their last 10, but the offense isn't producing (14 goals in nine games since Jan. 1). So why hasn't Gaborik been able to kick-start his game to help?
Missing 11 games earlier this season to a shoulder injury couldn't have helped with Gaborik's development or confidence this season. He's been feast or famine: Two hat tricks account for more than half of his goal total this season.
Fact is that he's not clicked with his linemates this season. The Alex Frolov experiment was a bust. Sunday night, Gaborik started with Brandon Dubinsky(notes) and Artem Anisimov(notes). He ended up playing with Anisimov and Ruslan Fedotenko(notes).
Gaborik, who rarely had the puck through two periods playing with Derek Stepan(notes) and Wojtek Wolski, was more of a force in the third after moving to a unit with Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky. Gaborik had three shots on Carey Price(notes) in 20:21 that led the forwards in ice time.
The Rangers' offense has been hurt by the absence of top-line forward Vinny Prospal, who spent much of last season setting up Marian Gaborik's team-high 42 goals. Propsal had knee surgery in October and is hoping to return later this month.
So perhaps help is on the way, and it couldn't come at a better time for Gaborik or the Rangers. He's the first domino for the New York offense, affecting the power play and the lineup configuration and so many other facets of their game.
They've been a playoff team without his contributions; what happens when he catches fire?
Or if he catches fire ...