It may seem an odd statement to make in light of an important defenseman being lost to injury, but the Rangers offense will need to produce consistently now more than ever. Despite the addition of Roman Hamrlik and the presence of multiple defensemen on the roster, the Rangers cannot reasonably expect to fill the void Marc Staal will leave. This is despite the presence of Henrik Lundqvist and the still impressive, remaining top four blueliners.
Any time a team loses a player of Marc Staal’s ability it’s going to hurt. When Staal went down the Rangers lost their best offensive blueliner (going by points alone), and lost a player that had returned to his All Star defensive best. Take an All Star who plays over twenty three minutes a game out of any line-up (except maybe the Blackhawks…) and you cannot reasonably expect the same performance level.
In this instance the pressure on players such as Marian Gaborik and, when he’s healthy, Brad Richards becomes that much more. They simply need to contribute if you assume the Rangers will allow an extra goal here or there with Staal out. Right now, the Rangers are winning games on the back of Rick Nash, the Callahan/Stepan line and Henrik Lundqvist. More goals from the Slovakian winger, better performances from Richards, and an all round consistently productive offense will help alleviate the loss of Staal.
Staal’s loss to that nasty eye injury may not seem to point directly to Gaborik, but this is a huge opportunity for the Slovak to put to rest some of the question marks beginning to (re?) surface about his Rangers future. The winger hasn’t been consistent this year and hasn’t been the force that was expected when the media assumed Rick Nash would help create extra space for other Ranger forwards. Gaborik simply needs to be more consistent.
With the cap coming down next year, Gaborik needs to reassert himself. Stepping up in the face of his team losing another important player will show that Gaborik can be counted on during tough times. It will show his ability to assume responsibility and will show that he’s able to handle more than just a secondary role, something that he’s been ‘relegated’ to recently.
Starting tonight against the Islanders, Gaborik – as well as the offense generally – will need to show he/they can step up and accommodate a key loss such as Staal. Perhaps it’s now that the offense needs to be lead the Rangers more than ever before.