Marian Gaborik netted his 18th and 19th goal of the season in a 4-1 win against the New Jersey Devils. The speedy sniper is currently on pace to hit the 50-goal plateau for the first time in his career. What is so extraordinary about Gaborik's lightning hot start is that in 31 games he has 19 goals when he scored only 22 goals in the entire 2010-11 campaign.
Gaborik, when healthy and on his game, is a highlight-reel capable goalscorer. He can blow past defenders when he sees open ice and he can snipe lethal wrist shots from the most unlikely angles.
Gaborik is proving to his fans and critics that last season was a fluke and he is still one of the best players in the league. In his last five games, Gaborik has scored seven goals and assisted on another for eight points. He also currently leads the Rangers with 30 points overall. He is only nine points off the league lead.
It is easy for fans to be happy with Gaborik's current production but he is just getting started. This is the case because Gaborik has remained healthy and his line is really clicking. In the "GAS" line last game against the Devils, Anisimov, Stepan and Gaborik combined for eight points and three goals.
With the Rangers top line kicking it into high gear, Gaborik can continue to rack up points. This year, Gaborik appears to be on a real tear. Many didn't think this would be the case this summer. This was due to the fact that Gaborik was coming off a down year and was coping with two huge losses.
As everyone is aware, Gaborik lost two best friends in Pavol Demitra and Derek Boogaard in what was a very tragic summer in the world of hockey. Despite missing some time during training camp, Gaborik worked hard while away to get into game shape.
Fans wondered if the weight of the losses on his mind would inhibit his game. However, it appears that Gaborik is motivated to have a great season in memory of his two fallen friends.
There have been a few keys to Gaborik's success this season.
The first key is speed. Gaborik is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL. He uses his speed to skate past defenders into the open ice.
When Gaborik finds open ice, it is hard to stop him. He uses this space to put himself in optimal position to unleash his accurate wrist shot. Gaborik also can capitalize from around the net with minimal space.
By putting himself into more scoring situations, Gaborik has been able to capitalize. There are still times when he isn’t getting enough shots off, but nobody is perfect.
Another key to Gaborik's success has been his health. Gaborik has a history with injuries and that has inhibited him from playing back-to-back 82-game seasons for quite sometime.
This season, Gaborik has remained in the lineup and that has impacted his game in a huge way. With a routine and consistent minutes, Gaborik has been able to build upon previous performances.
By not missing games, Gaborik has maintained continuity and chemistry with Stepan and Anisimov. This line has performed extremely well especially when fans expected Gaborik to paired with marquee free-agent signee Brad Richards. Both players have excelled despite their separation which helps to balance the offense throughout the Rangers lineup.
The third key to Gaborik's success has been John Tortorella. As strange as it sounds, Gaborik has been benched from time to time this season. The benching of Gaborik was televised nationwide on HBO's 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic.
Tortorella chastised Gaborik for some mistakes and he was benched. Shortly after, Gaborik sealed a Rangers victory with a power-play goal. During a side interview, Gaborik explained that "he doesn't go around the bushes." Gaborik may not have correctly stated the colloquialism, but he stated fact.
Tortorella wants and expects his star players to consistently perform. By keeping his players in check and honest with themselves, he can yield the best result.
He may be harder on players like Gaborik when he should be turning the screws on under-performing players like Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle but this could be the case because the Rangers bench boss knows what he should get out of his star players.
According to The Hockey News, Gaborik is on pace to finish the season with 50 goals and 29 assists for 79 points. Odds are that Gaborik finishes the year with a point-per-game average or higher but it still would be more impressive than last year's total.
At the end of the day, Gaborik is very talented. He is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL and has one of the most accurate wrist shots. At this pace he may even contend for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Even if Gaborik doesn't win the coveted top goalscorer award when all is said and done, he has made the Rangers an exciting team to watch thus far.
Fans hope he can keep it up and stay injury free. If the Slovak sniper can do this, then the sky is the limit. The road ahead only gets tougher as opponents attempt to learn the ins and outs of Gaborik’s game, but as an elite player in the NHL, Gaborik should not have a tough time adapting.
Tom Urtz is an NHL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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