For once, Marian Gaborik is not his team's go-to guy. He was acquired to give
the Kings some solid secondary scoring, and with three goals in four
playoff games he's getting the job done.
If the Los Angeles Kings are to pull off the near impossible by coming back from a 3-0 deficit in their series against the San Jose Sharks, the two obvious candidates to lead the way are Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
That's because they've been there, done that.
Richards and Carter were members of the Philadelphia Flyers team that fell behind 3-0 to the Boston Bruins in 2010, only to become the third squad in NHL history to come back from that large a deficit and win a series.
Richards and Carter are also winners, having collected championships at every level.
There is another player, however, who could also make a huge impact for the Kings, and that's newcomer Marian Gaborik.
A mighty talent, but a chronic underachiever, in his 13-year NHL career, Gaborik has shown glimpses of stardom, but has never demonstrated consistency to match his obvious ability. Perhaps the closest he came was early in his career when he played under Jacques Lemaire in Minnesota.
Now, at 32 years old, he finds himself playing for his fourth organization after a trade-deadline move from Columbus.
He's also in a much different situation. For once, Gaborik is not his team's go-to guy. He was acquired to give the L.A. some solid secondary scoring, and with three goals in four playoff games -- including two in the Kings' do-or-die Game 4 on Thursday -- he's getting the job done.
"It was a huge effort by everybody," Gaborik said after the victory, which sets up a Game 5 in San Jose on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10:30 p.m. ET). "We're alive."
With Richards, Carter, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown, the Kings had ample scoring to compete for the Stanley Cup, so getting Gaborik was a move designed to put them over the top. It's reminiscent of Butch Goring, in 1979-80, being acquired by the Islanders for the first of four straight Stanley Cup championships.
Gaborik has been a nice fit for the Kings, scoring five goals and 16 points in 19 games in the regular season.
Gaborik's career has been enigmatic. The third pick in the 2000 Entry Draft was a mainstay in Minnesota for eight seasons, but never hit the heights expected of him. In New York he was coach John Tortorella's whipping boy, while the Columbus experiment was a complete and utter bust.
Nobody questions Gaborik's talent. It's his heart and desire many wonder about.
Perhaps at this stage of his career, being a secondary player is the perfect role for him.
With his team trailing 3-0 in the series, Kings coach Darryl Sutter tinkered with his lines, placing Gaborik with Brown and Kopitar. Expect that trio to remain together for Saturday's game, and if Thursday is any indication, expect Gaborik to be a key component if the Kings are to engineer a comeback.
There is nothing more heartbreaking than watching a prospect at the NHL Entry Draft sitting in the stands round after round while being ignored by the league's 30 teams. They often feel like their world is coming to an end. The dream is not just over, it's shattered beyond repair.
The reality is, if you were destined to play in the NHL, not being drafted is just a bump in the road. Take a look at this season's Stanley Cup playoffs:
Martin St. Louis leads the New York Rangers with two goals and five points in three games. He has a Stanley Cup ring (with Tampa Bay in 2004), two NHL scoring titles and a Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.
St. Louis was never drafted.
Rene Bourque played a huge role in Montreal's sweep of the Lightning, scoring three goals.
Torey Krug spent most of last season in the minors, but burst upon the NHL scene in the playoffs, scoring four goals and six points in 15 games. This season he placed fourth in rookie scoring with 14 goals and 40 points in 79 games, and thus far in the playoffs has a goal and three points in four games.
You guessed it -- he was never drafted.
The playoffs are littered with players that were not drafted who are making significant contributions to their teams: the likes of Dan Girardi with the Rangers, Chris Kunitz with Pittsburgh, Dan Boyle and Antti Niemi with San Jose, and Danny DeKeyser and Jonas Gustavsson with Detroit.
If centre Ryan Getzlaf plays for the Ducks Friday night, he would be advised to skip the pushing and shoving and punching in scrums after the whistle. He is too valuable to his team to be sidelined by unnecessary confrontations.
Goaltending concerns in Philadelphia? Never! Steve Mason makes his first post-season start since April 23, 2009 and the Flyers need him to be at his best if they are to avoid falling behind 3-1 to the Rangers. Centre Claude Giroux, who may be playing hurt, also needs to contribute. He has no goals and just two shots on goal in three games.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.
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