NHL Playoffs 2012: Is Marian Gaborik Playing Hurt?

James Wrabel, Jr.Correspondent IIApril 30, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  Marian Gaborik #10 of the New York Rangers controls the puck against the Ottawa Senators in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 26, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

During the New York Rangers' magical 109-point season, the team's offense was led by sniper Marian Gaborik and his 41 goals.

After a disappointing, injury-riddled second season on Broadway, Gaborik followed up his third campaign by not only returning to form, but staying healthy all season long and playing all 82 games.

Has that changed in the playoffs?

After scoring a goal in Game 1 against the Ottawa Senators, Gaborik has been held without a goal for seven games, tallying just three assists. The opening round was no doubt a physical battle and the 29-year-old winger was certainly targeted by Ottawa's physical players.

In regards to the postseason, injuries to key players are kept as close to the vest as possible so that the opposition doesn't target that player in an attempt to injure them further. It's a dark cloud, shrouded in secrecy to protect the players, but no one blames the teams for doing so. Brandon Dubinsky has a "lower-body" injury. That could mean a plethora of things.

Could Rangers Coach John Tortorella be doing the same with his most explosive, game-changing scorer?

Gaborik looked more engaged in Game 1 on Saturday, throwing his body around early, and, when called upon, showcased his speed on breakaway chances. But, you can't argue against the fact Gaborik has not been the top offensive player he was in the regular season. 

Pessimists will point to Gaborik's poor offensive play thus far as an indicator he's not a playoff performer. 

Aside from his '02-03 campaign with the Minnesota Wild that went to the conference finals before it witnessed a sweep by the eventual cup-winning Anaheim Ducks, Gaborik hasn't played past the first round since, including the 2009 playoffs with the Rangers. In 42 career playoff games, Gaborik has 28 points, including 17 points (most by any player on the team) in the Wild's run in 2003.

To say Gaborik is a poor playoff performer is a bit too premature, but what is the reason for his mediocre start this postseason?

Is Gaborik concealing an injury? Is he playing nervous? Has he simply been defended exceptionally well?

Whatever the case, for the New York Rangers to make a deep playoff run this season, Marian Gaborik must be better than he has been.