Mika Zibanejad: Just what the doctor orderedOctober 19, 2016, by
Jeff Gorton may have landed his first trade theft as Rangers GM. Gorton has made many solid moves since replacing Glen Sather (as well as a couple of questionable ones but I digress…) and while it is perhaps premature to make bold statements, Mika Zibanejad is making Gorton look quite the savvy General Manager.
On the face of things, the Brassard/ Zibanejad deal should have an element of win/win for both sides. After all, Derick Brassard will be a solid player for the Senators, at least in the short term. However, even forgetting about the draft pick or financial elements the Rangers took advantage of, it’s the added dimension Zibanejad is giving the Rangers that makes this such an exciting deal for Rangers fans. That dimension is a much better, more dangerous powerplay for the long term.
The Rangers haven’t had an Ovechkin-esque shooter with the extra man for a long time and we’re seeing Zibanejad set up shop in the same areas as Ovechkin is known for and be willing to just fire away and create havoc for opponents with his lethal shot.
Sometimes it’s the mere threat of Ovechkin that has teams scrambling against the Capitals powerplay and, while Zibanejad cannot reasonably be compared to one of the greatest goalscorers of this (and any) NHL era, he could potentially have the same effect for the Rangers. I will be the first to admit, while I knew Zibanejad was a good prospect who was trending in the right direction I never realised his shot was such a weapon.
In theory, running an effective powerplay should be simple. Create traffic, get shots on net, generate rebounds, move the puck quickly to the open man etc. etc. In practice, it’s not so easy. Zibanejad is helping the Rangers improve their powerplay thanks to his dangerous shot. He’s bringing so many aspects of a dangerous, successful powerplay to the table. The Brandon Pirri powerplay goal against the Islanders in the season opener was exhibit A of the Mika effect.
Thanks to Zibanejad’s strong shot which created a juicy rebound, and the net presence of Chris Kreider, the Rangers cashed in on the powerplay against the Isles. Watch the play unfold. The shot started the whole sequence of events and while Kreider’s beautiful no look pass to Brandon Pirri was critical to the goal, it all starts with Zibanejad unloading.
It’s Zibanejad willingness to shoot so often, not just the quality of his shot, that is so refreshing. The Rangers for too long have had a pass happy powerplay unit. Even when they’ve had the benefit of quality guys such as Keith Yandle to distribute the puck, they have lacked a guy that is willing to grip it and rip it the way Zibanejad does.
Last season the Rangers were clearly too pass orientated, looked for the perfect play far too often. Mats Zuccarello, Brassard, Derek Stepan, even Rick Nash and Yandle. The Rangers didn’t have a bomb from the point. They didn’t have someone willing to get the puck to the net at the first reasonable opportunity. Now they do. It’s early days but Zibanejad is off to a hot start and his presence on the PP (and of course, his general all round ability) should mean the Rangers powerplay stays dangerous all season – if they can keep feeding him the puck."Mika Zibanejad: Just what the doctor ordered",