Archive for Mika Zibanejad

mika zibanejad

When teams are struggling to score it’s easy to look down a roster and pick off players with the zeros. While Chris Kreider has been nearly invisible this playoff series, I have noticed that Mika Zibanejad has been getting flack. Zibanejad will forever be linked to Big Game Brass, a fan favorite, and during the playoffs it’s easy to be nostalgic. Zibanejad has only one point thus far, while Derick Brassard has five. It’s easy to see the frustration some fans have for Zibanejad, but that’s a very small window for comparison.

Brassard came to the Rangers during his 25 year old season in the NHL. That is already one later than Zibanejad (who is also five years younger), who just turned 24 a few days ago. Before Brassard came to the Rangers he was seen as a risky center with injury history that had been unable to reach his potential with Columbus. The Rangers helped mold Brassard and utilized his skill properly by placing him with the right players. Low and behold, Brassard blossomed in front of our eyes. So why are we so down on Zibanejad?

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Mika Zibanejad has just four fewer points than Derick Brassard despite missing 25 games with a broken fibula

For Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich, the 2016-2017 season did not go according to plan.

Zibanejad missed 25 games with a broken fibula suffered on November 20th and Buchnevich was removed from the lineup to undergo a midseason strengthening plan devised by the Rangers coaching staff.

But despite their lengthy absences, both players exhibited early signs of what they can bring to the table. Zibanejad was New York’s most dominant forward in the preseason other than Chris Kreider and quickly demonstrated the creativity and two-way play that attracted the Rangers to him this summer.

Buchnevich took a bit longer to flash as he adapted to the North American game, but he racked up goals in four straight games before going on the shelf.

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AP Photo/Kathy Willens

The Rangers are finally starting to get healthy, per the notes from practice yesterday. To summarize:

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Nash has been good, almost great. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Where do you start with the Rangers top six? If you’re grading the offense as a whole, it’s fair to say you would give the team a strong grade – probably A level.

The Rangers boast an elite (at least statistically) powerplay, they sit second in the league in goals per game (3.4/game) and have scored more goals than every team in the league (144 at time of writing). However, when you break it down, has every player played to his own individual ability?

Rick Nash

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The frustration of reserving judgment

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The Rangers have gone 8-3 in their last eleven games, which is obviously a good thing. However, there has been some really bad process along the way. I don’t think there is any question at this point that the Rangers are most definitely a playoff team, but the bigger concern lies in their ability to win a seven game series with the likes of the Penguins and Capitals.

At BSB, we analyze performance on a game-by-game basis, while trying to identify good and bad traits in what is happening on the ice. We also like to take macro view of overall production and trends, which can hopefully be predictive of future performance and adjustments that need to be made for sustained success. I suppose what makes analyzing this stretch of Rangers’ hockey frustrating is the injuries to several key forwards, namely Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich.

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Mika Zibanejad has been New York’s best faceoff man (53.7%)

The pair of 7-goal spankings the Blueshirts took just before the holiday break at the hands of the Penguins and Wild magnified warts that had gone masked for much of the early part of the season.

There are obvious problems with the Rangers lineup, but if all goes well, they may only have to play a handful more contests before the cavalry arrives. Top center Mika Zibanejad and rookie Pavel Buchnevich are closing in on their returns after missing the last 18 and 22 games, respectively.

Buchnevich has already hit the ice in a non-contact jersey while Zibanejad is out of his walking boot and now skating on his own. The expectation is that both players will ramp up activity during the approaching bye week and return in mid-to-late January. And that can’t come soon enough for the floundering Blueshirts.

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Missing Mika Zibanejad on the powerplay

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When the Rangers lost Mika Zibanejad to a broken leg, the Rangers lost perhaps the one forward that would be the most difficult to replace. Zibanejad is a unique forward for the Rangers not in production, but the curveball he throws to the opposition when matching up. The majority of the Rangers are left-handed, pass-first players. Zibanejad is the exact opposite as a right-handed, shoot-first player.

This is the kind of player that the Rangers sorely needed for the longest time, as he was the pure shooter the Rangers needed not only at even strength, but even more so on the powerplay. It was the most evident the other night against Ottawa, when the Rangers could get nothing going on with the man advantage.

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The injury bug keeps biting the Rangers this year. Center Mika Zibanejad is out 6-8 weeks with a broken fibula after taking a nasty crash into the boards against Florida.

Zibanejad joins Pavel Buchnevich and Josh Jooris as the current injured Rangers. Chris Kreider, Kevin Klein, and Dan Girardi have also missed time with various injuries.

Unless Buch or Jooris are ready to go, the Rangers will need to recall a forward from Hartford.

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The Mika Zibanejad effect

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Mika Zibanejad drives up ice during a drill as the Ottawa Senators practice at the Canadian Tire Centre. Assignment - 119031 Photo taken at 10:47 on November 19. (Wayne Cuddington/ Ottawa Citizen)

It’s early so far in the 2016-17 regular season, but certain things are starting to become apparent. One of the most basic is that the Rangers’ new found speed and skill is going to be tough for teams to handle, or at the very least fun to watch, and one of the players who best exemplifies this is Mika Zibanejad. Although losing Derick Brassard, a fan favorite, was touch for many early returns on Zibanejad are overwhelmingly positive. Chris has already touched on his efficacy on the powerplay, but I thought I’d go a little bit more into how he plays at even strength.

What we can see with our eyes is that Zibanejad is fast, has good hands, and makes good passes. In particular, one of the things I noticed when I broke down every single one of his goals from last season over the summer is that he has good hands in tight, particularly when he’s on the receiving end of a low angle, vertical pass, helping to generate shots in close. He’s also pretty adept at setting up high danger scoring chances for his linemates, as we’ve seen so far with Chris Kreider, complimenting their skills with his own speed and vision.

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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.

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