After a single game on the same line, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik may have struck fear into the hearts of fans all over the Eastern Conference on Friday night. The pair each scored a goal and an assist in their first preseason game together en route to a 4-3 victory over the rival New Jersey Devils in Newark.
Like Jaromir Jagr in Philadelphia, Brad Richards got off to a stellar start with his new team after signing as a free agent in the offseason. The major difference is expectations. Fans in Philadelphia hope Jagr will succeed, but question marks surround the player who hasn’t been in the NHL since 2008. On the other hand, there are no such questions around Richards. He was the most coveted free agent on the open market this summer and he’s expected to produce. More importantly, he’s expected to make the team around him better and help the organization take the next step. From that perspective, he scored, he helped his linemates score, and the Rangers won. So far, so good.
Gaborik sounds like he’s excited to have a marquee center feeding him the puck this season:
“He’s one of the best players in the league. You can see he’s good at making plays and handling the puck and, also, defensively, he knows where to go…We spent some time in their zone. We still need to work on some things but I think it was pretty good for the first game.
“I try to move it through some give-and-gos and get to some openings. We created some chances on the power play and five and five, that’s how we’ve got to work. He handles the puck well. It’s better off with him carrying the puck and making that final play and me hitting the stride.”
Head coach John Tortorella showed in the first game, that he’s going to do everything he can to get the pair out on the ice together as much as possible. On the power play, the Rangers played five forwards—with Brad Richards joining Wojtek Wolski on the point. The result was an electric power play and a goal for Gaborik. Richards spoke about the power play look that featured five forwards:
“For the first time doing it, we had some good offensive zone time, good breakouts. We just want to bury a few more, but we only started working on it this morning. But we can build off this and hopefully keep getting better.”
With all of the
greenbacks moolah cheddar simoleons the Rangers are playing Gaborik and Richards this season—they better produce on a nightly basis. GM Glen Sather and Co. are paying the duo $19.5 million this season alone. To put it in perspective, for that much money they could afford their entire defensive corps and still afford Shea Weber. No pressure there.
It’s exciting to think about Richards and Gaborik playing together for an entire season. Richards has been one of the premier playmakers in NHL since the lockout, while Gaborik has been one of the premier finishers over the same period of time. If they both can stay healthy (easier said than done), both are in line for career years. Assuming the Rangers have their best seasons, the Blueshirts fans should have plenty to cheer about this year.