Each month at Blueshirt Bulletin, we’ll pick one player from the Rangers who stood out in recent games and award him with the prestigious title of Blueshirt Bulletin’s Bull of the Month. Whether he has been the lone bright spot on the team or one of many, this player will have impressed us with his persistence, consistency, and overall superb play. In short, the Bulletin Bull is the defined difference-maker on the New York Rangers over the course of that month.
December’s Bull is: Marian Gaborik
Stats: 36 GP, 22 G, 11 A, +10 (+/-), 4 GWG,
League Rank: 2nd G, 172nd A, 52nd (+/-), Tied for 2nd GWG
Highlight reel: Breakaway Goal against the Flyers (12/23), Faceoff Goal Against the Islanders (12/22), 300th Career Goal, Against the Coyotes (12/17)
On December 24th, Marian Gaborik took sole possession of the league lead in goals. He has since been surpassed by Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, but this milestone has been one of many in a season that’s turning out to be a career year for the Slovakian sniper. With 22 goals in 36 games, Gaborik is already on pace to pass his career-high of 42 goals in a season, which he achieved in his 2007-2008 season with the Minnesota Wild and his first season (’09-’10) with the Rangers. He scored a season total of 22 goals last year, and he has already reached that mark in half the time. Gaborik recently scored his 300th career goal in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes, and then earned his 600th career point in the next game against the Devils. The milestones are well-deserved by a player who has been steadily racking up the points this season and leading his team to important victories.
Though Gaborik is a quiet guy, his stats speak pretty loudly: His 11 goals over the month of December helped launch him into the #2 spot in the NHL in goals, and he has scored in each of the Rangers’ wins during the team’s recent five-game winning streak. With a team-high 5 game-winning goals (4 GWG and the shootout winner against Anaheim in early November), Gaborik has shown that he is a consistent offensive threat when it counts—and he has already surpassed last year’s count of 4 game-winning goals. Three of his 22 goals were empty netters—good for 2nd most in the league—and while empty net goals generally don’t mean much, in Gaborik’s case it goes to show both that Gaborik has a true knack for hitting the net and that Coach John Tortorella knows he can trust Gaborik to seal the win for his team in the final minutes of a game.
When Brad Richards signed with New York this summer,he was expected to center Marian Gaborik on the Rangers’ top line. In a surprising but not unpleasant turn of events, Richards is now centering a line with Captain Ryan Callahan and rookie call-up Carl Hagelin, and Gaborik has meshed with Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov. Stepan and Anisimov’s overall play has ratcheted up a notch since being paired with Gaborik; Anisimov is tied for second on the Blueshirts with 15 assists, and Stepan, with 17 helpers, shares the team lead with Michael Del Zotto. Stepan in particular, dispelling any fears of a sophomore slump, has been executing picture perfect passes to Gaborik all season on which an invigorated Gaborik has certainly been capitalizing.
In what is one of the true marks of a legitimate goal-scorer, Marian Gaborik has been putting the puck in the net in a variety of different ways. He’s been scoring on breakaways, 2-on-1s, set plays off the face-off, short-range back-handers, etc. While Gaborik has gelled with his young linemates, his individual effort has certainly been nothing to scoff at. The minute Gaborik steps on the ice, he flies, and one can barely make out the two numbers stickered on the back of his helmet: one for Derek Boogaard, and one for Pavol Demitra. Though Gaborik doesn’t talk much about the two friends he lost this past summer, it’s clear that he’s been playing with a little extra spark for them.
After scoring 42 goals in his first season with the Rangers, Gaborik scored only 22 goals in a second season marred by injuries. Expectations for Gaborik this season were hopeful, but cautious; yet Gaborik has shown, over the course of the first 36 games, that he is truly an offensive force to be reckoned with. The runner-up for Bull of the Month in both October and November, Gaborik has been a constant presence on the score sheet and undoubtedly one of the team’s leaders in the locker room. Gabby has been consistently giving each shift his all, and is showing no signs of letting up anytime soon.
“When he shoots, he has that certain look in his eye.” – Henrik Lundqvist
“I was confident he'd have a strong year, and he has been our best forward all season." – Coach John Tortorella
Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto. The “C” on Ryan Callahan’s jersey has done nothing to slow him down this season; if anything, the captaincy has energized him further. Callahan has registered at least one shot on goal in every game this season except one, and he has tallied 18 points in his last 19 games. He has continued to fearlessly throw hits and block shots, blocking 4 in one period alone against the Washington Capitals, with one leading to the team’s only tally of the night. His shorthanded goal in Buffalo on December 10th epitomizes Callahan as a player, as his tremendous individual effort led to a goal that stood up as the game winner in the team’s 2500th franchise win.
Michael Del Zotto has also become one of the Blueshirts’ most valuable players. He is tied for the team lead in assists, with 17, and his plus-25 is not only best on the team, but 2nd best in the entire league. His shots have not only been hitting the net, but have been going in, and his on-the-tape passes and poised skating (not to mention his impressive toe-drag that led to Carl Hagelin’s goal against the Islanders on the 26th) demonstrate a rise in confidence that is leading to an incredible season for the young defenseman.