The GAS Line, as some are calling it, is now looking like a legitimate top line. This is the first time the team has had a true first line since Jagr left. Gaborik, Anisimov, and Stepan all provide different skill sets when they’re on the ice together. Stepan is a solidly built guy who battles down low very well and is a tremendous passer with unreal vision and anticipation. Anisimov is a legitimate 6’4″, with plenty of skill and size that allows him to protect the puck in the corners and occasionally get the puck to the net (of the three, I still think Anisimov’s the farthest from what he potentially could be), who is an exceedingly responsible defensive player that battles for loose pucks on the forecheck. Gaborik is just a hockey phenomenon. He just finds spaces without the puck or creates them with the puck in a way that I haven’t seen before. He’s not an elite player who imposes himself in the game physically and powerfully; he’s an elite player who knows the right time to explode and create a dangerous scoring chance. After every game I feel like he had 7 or 8 shots minimum, and almost all of them had me expecting a goal. He just finds a way to inject his skill set into game and create scoring chances for himself or his linemates.
I love when they’re on the ice. Tonight against the Isles, they didn’t dominate as much as normal, but they had a solid amount of quality scoring chances which is a good sign. Note that they didn’t get as much time on the ice since the Rangers took approximately 200 penalties. But they still looked really effective in a game where penalties dictated that they’d receive less playing time.
What does this mean for the Rangers? It means either (A) the GAS line goes 2 games in a row with out producing as a line then get broken up by Torts, or (B) they build more confidence and chemistry and becoming a legitimate threat to score at least one goal every night. I’m hoping for B, and I think it will be B for a few reasons. 1) Marian Gaborik is playing so unspeakably well that he’s going to elevate the play of Step and Artie no matter what. He occasionally plays in a zone like the NHL isn’t difficult for him. I love that zone. 2) Stepan is such a smart and creative offensive player, and can put the puck in the net as well as be an elite passer. He could easily end up with 60+ points if this line sticks (just from feeds to Gabby and putaways on rebounds alone he’s going to get to 40 without a problem.) 3) Artie has a ton of skill and offensive potential that he’s still trying to work into his game a bit more. If he does, he could be a regular 60+ point guy. If he doesn’t develop much more, he’s still a defensively strong center with a big body and is solid on face-offs. There’s a reason a ton of teams inquired about his availability last year, and it’s because he’s an already solid top-6 center with undeveloped potential.
Having this combo out there and playing effectively does a few things: it has them playing against the other team’s top d-men and forwards, and that leaves our other forwards (Dubi, Cally, Richards) playing against other teams’ second and third units in a match-up that will be favorable for the Rangers in most games. Additionally, it’s going to be so so so much better watching the team play with a high level of confidence that we haven’t seen in a while. With that confidence comes a swagger of sorts, and there’s the kind of feeling that the Caps used to give the Rangers: the lead is never safe. The ability to score and create chances regularly, with the D and goal tending the Rangers have in the back end, means almost no lead will be insurmountable.
We are going to have a fun team to watch this year. I am excited. On a scale from early-morning-hangover to an-erection-so-intense-you-lose-consciousness, I’m moderately aroused. This is why I get the big bucks.