Pending returns of Zibanejad and Buchnevich loom large

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.

In the 10 games both players participated in this season, New York scored four goals or more seven times and outscored its opposition 42-23. Since both players exited the lineup, New York has scored four goals just five times in 18 games and been outscored 47-45.

Zibanejad and Buchnevich bring creativity to the offense matched by few regulars. Zibanejad had a healthy 15 points in 19 games before getting hurt, while Buchnevich had scored in four straight games before hitting the shelf. To their credit, the Blueshirts have recently found ways to score more greasy goals, but the return of two of their best playmakers should help rejuvenate a sputtering unit.

It goes far beyond that, though. Zibanejad and Buchnevich were among the team leaders in possession-driving statistics when they went down and the gap between them and most of their peers looks even more significant coming out of this recent reality check.

The duo should also help immediately on the power play. Brandon Pirri must be checking in with Zibanejad hourly at this point, for Zibanejad had been serving up a delicious variety of passes across the slot for Pirri to one-time at will. Zibanejad earned helpers on three of Pirri’s power play goals, but Pirri has scored just once since Zibanejad’s departure. Buchnevich had also tallied three of his eight points on the man advantage and was earning more and more opportunities.

Zibanejad will also be a major help on the defensive side of things. Zibanejad quickly established himself as a huge upgrade over Derick Brassard in the D-zone and was leading the charge in a rediscovered commitment to team defense.

New York’s weaknesses remain apparent and continued success may be hard to come by until they’re addressed, but replacing these critical pieces into the broken machine may enable it to run just a little while longer.

"Pending returns of Zibanejad and Buchnevich loom large", 5 out of 5 based on 12 ratings.
Show More


  1. Not to mention Zibanejad’s face-off prowess. IMO for a team that is supposedly so inept at possession, winning face-offs is more magnified. Also losing Nash hasn’t helped the team defensively. My question is why the Rangers are still playing pond hockey when it’s obvious they can be exploited so easily without 3 of their top forwards…especially Nash and Zibanejad.

    1. I am not impressed with the Rangers pond hockey style of play right now. They play way too loose in their own end, always looking for that long stretch pass before they get clear possession of the puck. They are not deep with forwards who can win the battles along the boards and its really noticeable without Nash in the lineup.

      Zibanejad and Buchnesvich are skilled players, but the other teams are on to the Rangers run and gun style of play. They are becoming a one trick pony and need to play a more hybrid game to separate themselves from the pack in the Metro.

  2. Can’t wait for those two to return, although I suspect it will take some time to get up to speed. Would love to see Z & B reunited with Kreider, but I’m not hopeful AV will do that.

    1. That was a nice line, and at least with the current style of play, we stand a chance to win with Z & Buch’s return………One thing is for certain, it’s a more exciting brand of hockey with these 2 players!!!!!!!

      1. Walt….they have played as a line for 19 minutes and their possession numbers are ridiculously high. But, the first line with Step, Zucc, and CK is by far our best unit.

        JT is in one of his major lack of focus/confidence benders again. He can’t buy a goal.

        1. I think Miller is in another “AV is a DB” mindsets.

          AV treats youth poorly and JT is probable done with it mentally already.


        2. my post dealt with the return of Z & Buch, not so much as a unit, but as players….JT is snake bitten right now, but he’ll come around, and playing 4th line what can you say?????

          1. He’s played 6 minutes (SIX)with those guys. His play of late has completely fallen apart after the blistering start. He did the same thing last year with one great stretch followed by really not so great periods.

          2. Al

            There is plenty of fault to be handed out to just about the entire team for they’re play this last month or so, it’s not just JT.

            The team started hot, same as last year, the NHL made adjustments to our style, and we have to readjust to them, that assumes AV has the ability to do so??????????

            I’ll stick with Miller, still working at the PK, finishes his checks, plays a semi-physical style, my kind of kid. Yet AV plays guys like Fast on multiple lines, offering none of what JT can offer, but always gets a pass from the coach, and some on this site!!!!!!!!

          3. I agree that AV seems to love Fast and I can’t understand why. He’s a good 4th line defensive player, but as an offensive threat he’s useless.

            By the same token I can’t understand why JT is in his doghouse. A goal scoring slump is no reason to put him on the 4th line, especially when he had great chemistry with Hayes for most of the season. Miller is one of the Rangers that works hard every time he’s out there. AV’s decisions baffle me.

          4. Snake

            AV’s decisions has baffled me for years, and have driven me nuts at times with the handling of the young guys, switching of lines, inability to adjust, and his all around BS….At least when Tort’s was around he played the best, not the pets!!!!!!!!!!

          5. Best not pets? Lol yeah okay Brian Boyle as a 3c and top 6 forward. Lets compare his first 3 seasons to Hayes as a NYR. That was another coach who plays backwards when coaching a team.

  3. You can’t fix the D unless someone will take G if he is willing to waive his NMC.You will need to package a prospect or a draft choice just to have some one take him .
    I have been watching Ranger Hockey since 1949 and have never seen a more stubborn coach that AV . G needs to be the 3RD only pass can make anymore is the alley oop out of the D zone . I have been a big fan of G for years but every one needs to know when to take a lessor role or just retire . The great one said he couldn’t play up to HIS standards when he left the game ‘meaning he was not happy putting up 75 to 80 points a year . Trade deadline will tell how we will fare in the PPs this year . Also think Nash should sit on this 2 game trip against Ariz and Colo ‘ if we play like we can we should be able to win both games ‘ if we don,t play down to them

  4. I don’t think it can be overstated how critical the return of Nash, Zibanejad, and Buchnevich is to this team.

    That’s essentially an entire first or second scoring line out of the lineup right now. A lesser team would have already sunk.

    1. I agree. And for all the talk about the Rangers’ forward depth, they don’t have much depth outside of the 12 that started the season. Any team would suffer with the loss of three of their top six forwards and the injuries the Rangers have suffered really shows that their third line struggles when having to step up against better lines.

  5. Tick Tock. Tick Tock. This team needs more then the return of these three players. The way this team is starting to be played and beaten means we need the moves now that strengthen the defense.

    If I had to choose, I would rather a better defense. The current roster has offensive talent that could possible get to the second round. If this lineup had defense, maybe further.

    When these three return, with this current blue line. 1st round departure.

    I am pumped to have them back, don’t get my words wrong, but it’s not even December anymore. Its time for D baby!

    imagine if both Defense and these returns happen all this month!

    Sweet Baby Jesus!

  6. The NYR play 13 games in the next 34 days and that includes 2 gaps of 5 days with NO games on the schedule. There are a few back to backs and 2 games with CBJ, 2 with Toronto, 2 with Flyboys, and finally Montreal is played.

    26 points up for grabs. How many we get will tell us a tremendous amount about this club going to the last portion of the season. Our current rate of return is 1.32 points per game which will get us 17-18 points out of the next 26. It would be fabulous to take 20 points, but there are some tough road games in there.

    3 wins from the first 3 of the 13 against weaker competition would start this stretch off nicely.

    1. Their last 20 games, the team is averaging 1.15 ppg, which would have them on the outside looking in if it wasn’t for all the points they banked early in the season. History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme. The problem is our bandleader has a tin ear.

      After the 2 cupcakes, they have 2 back to back and a 3 in 4 day stretch, with Detroit being the only other easy game on the schedule.

      Beware the Ides of January.

    1. Exactly. And why is that? Lack of motivation is the only thing I can think of. Especially with Nash, Mika and Pavel on the sidelines these next few games are must games if the team is going to finish in the top 3 in the division. They can’t afford to give away points against weak sisters with the way the rest of the division is playing.

  7. Can’t wait to have them both back but it’s not a “cure all” that’s for sure.

    Part of the problem for assessing teams this part of the year is that the good teams, in general, don’t really “start playing” until January or maybe even February, meaning that’s when they start putting the pedal to the floor and start pushing their play.

    It’s been said that the Rangers need to play better against the better teams. Does it occur to anyone that maybe they’re not good enough? The forwards are but for every home game I go to see the more dismayed I am by this D group. Really, really bad. We need moves, desperately.

  8. Chicago just priced several key players right of Chicago, giving Panarin a 2 year bridge deal at a whopping $6 million per year.

    The idea of a bridge deal is a good one, kicking the can down the road a couple years before having to resign Panarin for big money. Only, giving him $6 million a year means they’ll end up overpaying for him in 2 years, like they’re doing with Kane and Toewes.

    They’re going to continue to hemmorage good, young players as a result. I remember reading an article over the summer predicting that the Blackhawks were setting themselves up for a “stars and scrubs” lineup. Looks like that trend is continuing.

  9. 10.5 per for Kane and Toews is going to kill them at some point . ane is doing well this year but Toews has just 6 goals so far 21 m for both is just to much to be paying and add in Hossa for another 5 years with what they are paying Panarin now and they will not be able to compete for a cup in the near future

Back to top button
Skip to toolbar