Rangers' Gartner turns into playmaker

November 08, 1991|By Frank Brown | Frank Brown,New York Daily News

NEW YORK -- Physically, Mike Gartner looks the same. Same sinewy build, same mustache, same shield on his helmet, same speed, same deadly shot from the right-wing circle. So it is a tricky thing to talk about a new-look Mike Gartner.

Something is different, though. For one thing, as the New York Rangers right wing headed into Wednesday night's Madison Square Garden meeting with the Montreal Canadiens, Gartner had more assists (10) than goals (8) -- quite the departure for a forward who is known for his "Cy Young" statistics.

Cy Young stats in baseball mean a pitcher has won way more games than he has lost. Cy Young stats in hockey mean a player has many more goals than assists. Gartner, for example, had 49 goals last season and just 20 assists. His job is to score goals, and Gartner has done it as well as almost anyone in the history of the league.

This play-making thing is becoming a habit, though. And Gartner is doing it with relative ease -- especially since being placed on a line with left wing John Ogrodnick and rookie center Doug Weight.

The Rangers' previous game was a perfect example of the balanced game Gartner has been showing. In the second minute of Monday night's contest with Calgary, the puck was at the left-wing sideboards and the Flames' massive center, Joel Otto, was shielding it with his hulking body. Gartner took a deep breath and hurled himself (6-0, 190 pounds) against Otto's mass (6-4, 220).

"I'm thinking I better put the most into it that I can," Gartner recalled, smiling, "or I'm going to look real bad."

Gartner ended up looking real good. The puck came loose and Gartner drove it to the corner, where Ogrodnick was prowling.

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