The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings are getting set to clash in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in history. Each team has fought long and hard to reach this point, with New York needing 20 games to get here and Los Angeles needing the max number of 21 games in three rounds of playoffs.
The Rangers will play against some familiar faces, but most notably former Ranger Marian Gaborik. Gaborik played three full seasons with the Rangers before being traded in the middle of his fourth season with New York. He had some good years in New York, but he had ups and downs and didn’t always get along with former head coach John Tortorella (who did?).
Regardless of the terms of Gaborik’s departure from the Big Apple, he would love to get the best of his former team on the grandest of hockey stages. Obviously, it’s each player’s goal to win the cup first and foremost in this situation, but there’s no doubt Gaborik has thought about the joy of besting the Rangers in particular.
It would be a stretch to say there’s bad blood between the Rangers and Gaborik (especially without Tortorella coaching the Rangers anymore), but you still want to play well against an old team and Gaborik will be no different. There have been speculations in the past about Gaborik’s lack of effort at times in his career, but that won’t be the case against a former team in the Finals.
The Rangers know Gaborik well, and they have to use that as an advantage to slow him down. Gaborik has 19 points in 21 playoff games and leads the league in postseason goals with 12. He scored the game-tying goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, which helped the Kings reach overtime and eventually win the series in that overtime.
Gaborik will desperately want to make a big difference in this series. He’s been in the league for a long time, but has never been this close to a championship. New York’s defense must pay attention to Gaborik without giving up too much space to his line mates. Gaborik, along with Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar, has been one of the most dangerous lines in the NHL this postseason. The Rangers have to watch Gaborik without over-committing.
In the Stanley Cup Finals, there’s much more happening than Gaborik matching up against a former team, but it has to give him an extra gear of motivation that could ultimately make a difference in what should be a close series.