NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: The New York Rangers bench reacts during their 2 to 3 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 16, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Despite trailing 3-2 in the dying minutes of game 2, the New York Rangers left one of their best offensive weapons on the bench. Why was Marian Gaborik kept off the ice, and is this a sign that John Tortorella was sending a message to his players?
As the New York Rangers attempted to erase a one-goal deficit after David Clarkson's early third-period goal, fans and pundits alike began to ask the same question: "Why aren't we seeing Marian Gaborik?"
Though commentator Mike Milbury questioned the Slovakian winger's lack of shot blocking and physical play compared to his teammates, it's worth considering that the 40-goal scorer isn't being paid $7.5 million this season for his defensive play.
Perhaps Tortorella was not pleased with Gaborik's play on the Madison Square Garden ice, but it's worth pointing out that the Rangers continued to battle with their "slowness" in the words of their head coach. Though it may also be worth pointing out that what the Rangers front office claims to be a speed issue may be more accurately described as fatigue. Two consecutive seven-game series appear to be taking a toll on New York. Each club made its share of mistakes during game two, but the home team's difficulties adjusting began to compound, unlike their dominant late-game performance in the opening game of the series.
Gaborik, meanwhile, saw just 15:21 of ice time, more than three minutes of which was power play time, and two shots on goal.The ice time marked his lowest numbers of the postseason, but it's worth noting that his ice time has been declining slowly since game six against the Washington Capitals -- which was also the last time he contributed a goal.
Paired with Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin during his rare third-period apperances, his final shift would come to an end with 1:37 left in the third period. Sitting on the bench as Henrik Lundqvist was brought off the ice for an extra attacker, the player expected to deliver clutch scoring for this club would not be sent out. Instead, it would be Brad Richards, Stepan, Hagelin, Ryan Callahan and Chris Kreider who took the ice, while Dan Girardi would be the sole blueliner.
In the end, the Rangers would be unable to bridge the gap, falling by a score of 3-2, and the now-tied series will shift to the Prudential Center. If the management of ice time in this game was meant to send a message to players Tortorella feels were underachieving, they must hope it was received in time to make a difference.