Gaborik’s slump, Wounded Wings and Rogie’s big night

The Rangers are once again the foe for the Canadiens tonight, having rebounded from their 2-1 loss to the Habs on Tuesday with a very strong 1-0 win over Vancouver, the NHL’s top team, on Thursday. As mentioned on HIO when examining the Rangers earlier this week, they are the NHL’s best road team with 15 wins.

Although, Marian Gaborik has not been scoring, he had six shots against the Canucks and set up the only goal when he hit the post and the rebound came out new Ranger, Wojtek Wolski, who put it in. The two seem to click well as linemates along with Artem Anisimov.

Gaborik’s coach remains confident. “I think he’s gonna get
going,” John
Tortorella told Jesse
Spector of the NY Daily News
. “I think the new guy coming in
(Wolski) is gonna help us.” Gaborik had 42 goals last year, but has only
so far 11 this season.

Gaborik himself is saying all the right things, telling Spector, “It’s going to come eventually. It
always has. I think every player, every guy that’s a goal scorer goes
through these. I know this year especially hasn’t been going for me, so I
just have to keep trying. The most important thing is the team goes
well.”

And former Habs first rounder Ryan McDonagh is getting noticed in his first few games as a Ranger. The big defenseman who went to New York in the Scott Gomez deal, was the subject of two Saturday stories by Andrew Gross of The Bergen Record and  Tim Bontemps in the New York Post.

Gross writes that McDonagh, the University of Wisconsin standout who never signed with Montreal, still got a taste for the fans passion. “I was in Montreal for two summer camps,” McDonagh said. “We were
skating at these dinky rinks and there were 650 people in these rinks
just to watch us.

“But nothing beats New York,” he added perhaps diplomatically.

*     *     *
The Habs certainly have injury concerns, with Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges gone for the season and illness hitting a couple of forwards, but no team appears to have more key players banged up at the moment than the Red Wings.
Detroit was already missing Mike Modano (wrist), Pavel Datsyuk (hand), Brad Stuart (jaw), Dan Cleary (ankle) and Chris Osgood (groin) for extended periods and in last night’s shootout loss to Columbus, Tomas Holmstrom broke his hand and is gone for about a month and goalie Jimmy Howard took a puck off his knee and is day-to-day with a bone bruise.
“It’s ridiculous,” Holmstrom said in The Detroit Free Press of the team’s injuries.
“There’s no sense whining,” coach Mike Babcock said (quoted in The Detroit News). “Just go out and play. It’s
disappointing.”
Justin Bourne — the son of former Islanders Stanley Cup winner Bob Bourne and a former minor pro player turned writer — recently wrote an interesting blog post for the Hockey News on how NHL organizations deal with injuries and how call-ups respond. 
“Most players can move up a level and, for a game or two, not hurt the
team. It’s easy to get amped up and go 1,000 miles an hour for a few
shifts a night, applying the intense focus a player trying to make a
good impression shows up with.

“But as the games go on and the
beginner’s luck and first-time thrill wears off, a player can get
exposed and teams can start to struggle. The streakiness we see from NHL
teams around mid-season can often be explained by the old ‘only as
strong as your weakest link’ adage.”

Bourne goes on to discuss how important organizational depth is for an NHL team: “You want prospects surrounded not just by capable players who won’t hold
them back, but also the type of well-seasoned players who can help them
out in their first years of professional hockey. It’s a sizable step
from junior or college, so you need to leave some mentors around your
prospects.”
And taking a shot at himself, he added, “As an NHL team, you don’t want to call up all of your AHL team’s best
players and leave your young, talented prospects to play with hobos like
me.”
*     *     *
HIO’s Dave Stubbs and I share a love of Canadiens goalies throughout history and one who I know Dave particularly admires, Rogie Vachon, will be honored tonight by the team with whom he remains most identified, the Kings.
In a ceremony before LA’s game with the Oilers, Vachon will be the first Kings player honored as on a “Legends
Night
” at the Staples Center. The Kings will wear also their 1970s
purple-and-gold jerseys to mark the occasion.
After breaking in with the Habs, and playing on the ’68, ’69 and ’71 Cup teams (plus sharing the Vezina Trophy in ’68 with his roommate and my hero Gump Worsley), Vachon became the star attraction for the mid-70s Kings, twice named a post-season All-Star, His sweater number 30 was the first ever retired by the team on Valentine’s Day in 1985.
Vachon was also the starting goalie for Team Canada’s triumph in the first Canada Cup tournament, winning team MVP honors and being named the tourney’s top goalie.
Later, he served as the Kings GM from from 1984 until 1992 and was interim coach three times and, before Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall dominated the scene, was considered the face of the franchise. He’s currently a Kings team ambassador.
Here are a couple of good pieces on Vachon, one by Rich Hammond on the Kings website and another by J.P. Hoornstra of the LA Daily News.
Kings radio voice Nick Nickson also interviewed Vachon and that can be heard on this podcast where he talks about his early years, when his signing bonus was $600. “But who cares, you know?” Rogie says. “You’re playing with Montreal Canadiens, the best hockey team in the world.”

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