Marian Gaborik:Last season the Slovak sniper netted 42 goals and 44 assists, at the top of the Blueshirts’ offensive class. This season, he’s very quietly put up 19 points in 22 games. Multi-point games have been few and far between. One night he’s up, the next night he’s down. He’s fifth on the team in goals with nine trailing Brandon Dubinsky, rookie Derek Stepan and grinder (more like a power forward this year) Brian Boyle. Constant linemate swaps and injuries haven’t helped. A shoulder injury cost him 13 games and a sore groin gave Ranger fans a chance to see rookie Mats Zuccarello strut his stuff last night against the Lightning. Gaborik was nowhere to be found in the Rangers 4-1 loss to the powerhouse Flyers. Bottom line: He’s not having an impact. On the ice, he’s not the noticeable star. That needs to change if the Rangers are going to make a run this spring.
Alex Frolov: He hasn’t clicked since signing with the Rangers this summer. He has momentary sparks of promise, like his game winning goal to propel the Rangers comeback against the Penguins. With his latest linemates of Chris Drury and Artem Anisimov, he looked strong as he netted the second goal last night against Tampa Bay. If they can keep it up, he might be able to turn this lackluster season around. So far, he’s continuing his downward career trend and likely won’t amass the 20-30 goals of offensive support management was envisioning.
Michal Rozsival:The blueliner has had his ups and downs driving Ranger fans mad. The former number one D-man usually has a target on his back when he’s caught out of position and giving the puck away like the Martin St. Louis gaffe last night that gave the Lightning an early lead. His offensive contributions have dwindled. He’s no Wade Redden but he’s certainly not playing up to his $5 million cap hit. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi are the real number ones.
Michael Del Zotto:It’s no secret that Del Zotto has been struggling in his sophomore season. A minus-3 rating against the Flyers last week along with a host of other negative plus/minus ratings has hurt his defensive game. His offense has gone down as well and Staal has been slipped into the powerplay unit where DZ made a mark last season. He was benched for the first time last month and given an assignment to take note of the powerplay. He’s young and still learning. He just needs to regain his confidence and get his feet moving in the right direction.
Sean Avery: He’s disappeared on the fourth line and hasn’t had the same pop as he did at the start of the season. The Rangers need him to cool it with the untimely penalties and step up behind the net with the puck and attack the puck carrier. He only has one goal in 36 games so far this season. As a side note: His website has been down. Ranger fans are missing his kooky blog posts and photos. Two weeks ago he posted, “If u would like to buy me an xmas present, my wish is for candles this year. U can send to 444 W19th st NY NY 10011. Happy Holidays, Love Sean.”
The rookies and homegrown talent are the stars of Santa’s Nice list:
Derek Stepan: He scored the game tying goal last night against the Lightning to make it 3-3, pumping his arms in the air to celebrate. The Garden was electric. You know how Ranger fans love to see their rookies succeed. Stepan has scored in three straight games and had a six game point streak going earlier in the season. He has a presence similar to that of Ryan Callahan. He works hard. Plain and simple. His potential as a playmaking top six forward is unmatched.
Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky: They do everything and anything. Block shots, score goals, defend teammates, throw hits, PK, powerplay, you name it, they do it. Dubinsky leads the team with 14 goals and 28 points. Before being sidelined with a broken hand, Callahan ranked second in the league in hits and second among forwards in blocked shots.In other words, they’re energy personified. John Tortorella told the NY Post: “I try not to talk a lot about injuries, but we’re not going to replace Ryan Callahan…he’s a huge part of the engine of our team, that’s all I need to say.”
Brian Boyle:Boyle is an example of how hard work really does pay off. He wasn’t even a sure thing to make the team again out of training camp, but the extra time he put in over the summer with Barbara Underhill, a former Olympic figure skater, improved his game dramatically. He told Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal: ”I was 25. There were days where I said, ‘If I don’t do this, if I don’t make it here, where am I going to go?’ Time is kind of running out for me, I’m not as appealing a prospect as I once was. You can’t let that take over.” He didn’t. The Rangers are certainly getting their money’s worth with the new and improved skating Boyle who is second on the team with a career high 12 goals. The 6′ 7” forward is a mere $525,000 of a cap hit. A hit on Broadway indeed.
Dan Girardi and Marc Staal:Staal has upped his offensive game while Girardi is holding the blue line down blocking shots and making big plays. The shutdown pair aren’t afraid to get physical when it comes to defending against the league’s stars like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.
Erik Christensen: He gets a lump of coal for the rest of his game but on shootouts? He brings some mighty nice moves. He’s three for three this season. Check out this sweet goal on Dan Ellis after some advice from teammate Marty Biron.
Coach John Tortorella: He’s been much more media friendly this season. He’s got a new MSG show Behind the Bench where he talks Rangers’ strategy and answers viewers’ questions along with MSG analyst Bill Pidto and former Ranger coach Mike Keenan. He hasn’t had one run-in with “Brooksy” aka Larry Brooks of the New York Post yet. Newsday’s Steve Zipay summed up the kinder, gentler Torts nicely in an article earlier this month.
Merry Christmas Ranger fans. Hope everyone has a very happy holiday weekend.
About the Author
Written by Margaret DeJesus
I'm a recent college graduate looking for a dream job covering hockey. I've been watching the New York Rangers since my grade school days of VHS and Gordon Bombay's "ducks fly together" speech. While studying journalism at Boston University (COM '10), I wrote for the Daily Free Press, the student newspaper. I worked two summers at the Staten Island Advance, my hometown newspaper, writing city news and features. I've also written CD reviews for Music-Reviewer.com. One of my favorite gigs was interning for hockey analyst extraordinaire Stan Fischler covering the Boston Bruins and attending all their home games in the 2009-2010 season. (Yes, including the crushing defeat against the Flyers in the Eastern Conference playoffs.)