Who really drives the KZB line?

pavel buchnevich chris kreider
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/AP

As the offseason turns to the dog days of summer, us fans are left counting the days until October. The roster appears to be set, and the Rangers look like they won’t be making any big moves. Naturally, that can all change, but I think it’s safe to say that Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Pavel Buchnevich will be on the club and form the Rangers’ top line next season.

The KZB line has been phenomenal when together. They seem to gel together, and complement each other nicely. Zibanejad is the scorer, Kreider is the beast, and Buchnevich is the visionary. Everything seems to work for them. But there seems to be an argument that Buchnevich (or Kreider) is the passenger on the line. So let’s look at those claims. Who really drives that line?

*-Note: I am forming conclusions as I write the post, based on what I’m seeing. This is not a preconceived notion/post.

The first thing I want to look at is an overall summary of the two players perceived to be passengers on the line, Kreider and Buchnevich. The first thing that really jumps out at me is how much Buchnevich contributes to getting shots. He’s far and away the best on the line at creating shots.

For comparison’s sake, here’s Buch and Zibanejad:

Again, Buchnevich is much better at generating shots for his linemates. On an aside, I found it shocking how little Zibanejad shoots at even strength. Then again, most of us are thinking of his shots at the Ovechkin spot, which is on the powerplay.

All in all, it looks like the offense runs through Buchnevich while in the offensive zone. But that’s only 1/3 of the ice surface. We need to look at how they enter the offensive zone to really gauge how efficient they are in the neutral zone, and how they exit the defensive zone.

Based on the above controlled zone entry/exit data, it’s Zibanejad who really drives the puck through the neutral zone, and Kreider through the defensive zone. Buchnevich doesn’t excel at all in these areas. Based on Alain Vigneault’s old systems, this makes sense. It was Kreider who was leveraged to carry the puck out of the defensive zone with his speed, and it was Zibanejad who was charged with setting his teammates up with speed entering the offensive zone. It fit with his quality over quantity and rush based tactics.

Since we’ve garnered that all three complement each other nicely, the question then shifts to whether or not they form a formidable first line. Let’s be clear first, none of the three are elite talent. Buchnevich may hit that elite talent threshold given the consistent chance, but Kreider and Zibanejad fall in the “very good” category.

Looking at a Kreider/Buchnevich comparison above, we see that both drive offense and score at a first line rate. Buchnevich lags behind in raw CF% and some other xG metrics, but I am going to attribute that to his role on the fourth line for roughly half his ice time. Truly amazing what he’s been able to do while bouncing around the lineup under AV.

Here’s Zibanejad’s numbers, next to Buchnevich’s because I can’t compare three players at once. More of what we’ve mentioned above. The three of them have different strengths which cover each others weaknesses. It worked under AV. In the end, there is no one player that drives the line, and it looks like they form a nice top line. And just think, there’s a chance that they could become the second line in the near future.

That should excite you.

"Who really drives the KZB line?", 2 out of 5 based on 10 ratings.

41 thoughts on “Who really drives the KZB line?

  • Jul 9, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Too much info to digest here, but they all bring something to the table, and work well as a unit, so let them go for the season to see the final results.

    Under AV, Buch was a ping pong ball, going up, and down the lineup. Let him skate with the other two, have set lines, and they can create chemistry. At the end of the season, if they don’t work out as we expect, then some serious evaluation should take place, and moves made if justified!!!!!!!!!

    I can’t wait to see what we have as a roster come October. This team will be good in two, three years, and will be for a very long time thereafter……… LGR!!!!!

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 8:32 am

      Completely agree on AVs use of Buch.
      Also it will be interesting if the new head coach can get Kreider to become more of a consistent player. The only thing consistent about Kreider is his inconsistency.

      • Jul 9, 2018 at 9:06 am



    • Jul 9, 2018 at 8:45 am

      don’t think you’ll have to wait that long. av was a horribly inconsistant coach, so stability in the coaching alone should improve their game as a team.

      • Jul 9, 2018 at 2:29 pm

        Can’t take away facts like AV leaving the KBZ line in tact for the first 2 months and the PP1 throughout the whole season barring no injury of course.

  • Jul 9, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Let’s hope Quinn isn’t as impatient as our last 2 coaches, and let’s them play together for more than a period before shuffling the lines.

    • Jul 10, 2018 at 5:42 am

      Based on what Quinn has been saying all along, lack of effort gets you bench time, not mistakes.

      I’m fine with that.

  • Jul 9, 2018 at 9:22 am

    AV was trying to win and was not here to develop young talent at the cost of winning games let’s be fair. Yes he could have given players like Buch a longer leash but in his job in his mind was to win the cup not let Buch learn on the job. Buch was no where to be found in the D zone and did not seem interested in winning puck battles. Yes the next coaching staff should handle the kids different at least until we field a team the can win again. While I’m defending everything that AV did, his job was to win the cup and he had a few good runs at it but fell short. It was not extended on the job training at that time nor should have it been.

    I’ve been watching the ranger since the late 60’s I know I’m going to get killed here for saying this but AV was one of the better coaches aside from the Cat and Herbie that we had. (Mike K and Fredie S. were not here long enough)

    Go ahead tell me I’m crazy.

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 9:47 am

      And that’s the problem: under the current CBA, you have to both win *and* work the kids into the lineup.

      AV was ham handed at it, did it when his options were taken away.

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 10:38 am

      No, you’re not crazy. There’s way too much blaming the coach for the players’ faults going on. AV definitely had his faults and even given the priority of winning over development many of his decisions were, well, hard to understand. That said, its the players that are on the ice and really good players will force a coach’s hand. I didn’t see Buchnevich do that and I agree with your criticisms of his play. He’s young enough and talented enough to turn things around and I hope he will benefit from a more developmentally oriented environment but lets be honest – we’re not talking about a McDavid, Eichel or Laine here.

      • Jul 9, 2018 at 1:27 pm

        I hope Buch becomes a star but he has long way to go. Let’s see what the next staff does with him. No doubt now it is development first. That was not the priority the last several years. He needs to get stronger he should grow into his body. AV was not perfect

  • Jul 9, 2018 at 10:21 am

    Kreider is an enigma, with his physical talents he should be a premiere power forward in the NHL. Unfortunately he is far from it. I always said if Kreider had Mike Keenan as a coach, he would be the next Gary Roberts/ Rick Tocchet/ Cam Neely all rolled into one. Lets hope coach Quinn has a little Mike Keenan in him.

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 11:11 am

      He was that guy on his return.

      • Jul 9, 2018 at 3:05 pm

        No he wasn’t, he had like 2 or 3 good games on his return and that was it. If he went beast mode than EVERYONE around the league would had taken noticed. In that span he showed athletic ability by jumping over people, awareness by making a no look pass from the slot on the PP but it was all short lived. Certain fans like to make it longer than it really was but in the greater scheme of things, it was nothing special. Sorry but if Kreids had to stop playing after this past season than nobody would be hyping up that 1 week upon return that he decided to show out for once.

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 11:22 am

      I think we are going to see Kreider performing at his best next season. I think he is capable of 30+ goals a year. I just wish his hands were a bit better, then we’d be talking 40+ goals.

      • Jul 9, 2018 at 5:33 pm

        How many July’s do we find ourselves saying this?

        At this point Kreider is what he is. A 25-30 goal scorer. And that’s not a bad thing.

        • Jul 9, 2018 at 6:48 pm

          I think we see more from CK this year. More of the stuff we saw after he came back this past year.

          • Jul 9, 2018 at 7:53 pm

            Says every Ranger fan every summer for the last 3 years.

            He is what he is and that’s not a bad thing!

            Ass Eddie would say he’s good but not great!

            • Jul 9, 2018 at 7:54 pm

              Haha Freudian slip?!?!

              Should read “As Eddie”

              • Jul 9, 2018 at 8:03 pm

                Poor E3, I wish we would hear from him.

            • Jul 9, 2018 at 8:03 pm

              “Says every Ranger fan every summer for the last 3 years.”

              Yes but THIS time it’s different. New coach will unleash the Kreider we all think that he can be.

              • Jul 9, 2018 at 10:17 pm

                Says every Ranger fan when the Rangers fired Tortz and hired AV.

                I don’t think you were part of this blog during the tortorella years but the common theme was that Kreider’s inconsistency was due to Tortorella making him do things like block shots and be responsible defensively. I’m sure you can see the common theme here of just blaming a players shortcomings on the coach, it happened with the previous coaching staff.

                But seriously Kreider is the ultimate tease. He randomly plays a game where he physically dominates the opposition and literally takes over the game. Then he plays passenger for the next week. He’s a good player. But if he could harness that dominating game and be more consistent then he gets his name included in the games elite. But at what point to we stop waiting around for that consistency.

              • Jul 10, 2018 at 5:45 am

                Not disagreeing with you at all my friend.

                CK “should” be a dominant player, not only in points but in every game impact, meaning that even when he does not score, he is noticeable on the ice.

                No excuses this year. What we get this year should be what he really is. So if it’s the “same ole” then he is what he is.

  • Jul 9, 2018 at 10:36 am

    AV was bounced not because he couldn’t get us to the promised land, he was bounced because he could not develop young players and couldn’t develop an Amoeba….Quinn is the opposite of AV and will allow players to develop on the fly. That is exactly what we need…Growing pains a plenty, but in the long run will pay off.

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 11:05 am

      I am excited to see a team that looks like there’s chemistry as well as a sense of team, I feel AV lacked some of that TEAM building as well as individual development.

      I wanna see a team out there, ya know what I’m saying?

  • Jul 9, 2018 at 11:10 am

    If Buchnevich keeps on adding the lbs the right way, this should be a breakthrough season.

    He’ll be effective going to the net, forcing D to collapse on him, then he can feed to Zib or Kreider.

    Lock him up to 30, sooner rather than later.

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 11:16 am

      I agree. He is just getting to where he needs to be physically. One could see him being more able to fight through checks and maintain possession last season compared to his prior years with the team. I’d lock him up too.

      • Jul 9, 2018 at 12:08 pm

        Agreed, lock him up for 8 years … now is the time to do that and in 2-4 years he’ll be a bargain.

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 6:46 pm

      Too soon to give him a long term contract IMO. See what happens this year.

      His pts per game are very good, considering the jerking around he endured, but I want to see more before I give him 5-6 years.

      • Jul 9, 2018 at 10:57 pm

        You lock him in now at a reasonable AAV so he has security and the team has cost certainty. This is where the Rangers have a competitive advantage: Front loaded, yr 1 bonus contracts.

        The AAV is what you hope he becomes, the paragraph 1 is what he produced. If he does it or exceeds it, you have tremendous value for money. If he stays at his pace, you can swing him to Ottawa for better value than his production would warrant.

        • Jul 10, 2018 at 5:47 am

          It’s the McD situation. But McD kind of “proved” that he deserved a long term contract.

          What would you give Buch that he would accept? 5 years at $4M per? I don’t think that he would sign that, but that’s what I would offer at this time.

  • Jul 9, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Since we’ve been talking about AV and lines, I’d say that AV had a good run for a few years. I don’t think anyone can reasonably deny that. I believe, however, his last two seasons with the club were pretty poor. Not all of it was his fault, but he definitely had a big hand in the way things played out.

    AV’s line shuffling often drove me nuts. All coaches do it to some extent, but, set lines are pretty darn common in the NHL for a reason: chemistry and familiarity. AV seemed to shuffle lines so often within games that, in my opinion, it was detrimental to the team in his last seasons as coach.

    I think he was at his best when he rolled four lines all game long. His strategy of keeping fresh legs on the ice made sense and it could wear out opponents. But I think that shuffling lines should be used with some restraint, and shortening the bench should be done with retraint too.

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 11:36 am

      Peter, when coaches get desperate that’s what they do, juggle lines, experiment with players, chew more bubble gum, etc…..I can be very critical of AV and do think he was a very good regular season coach, but I am very happy he is gone now and we get to see Quinn, who from my sources, say he will change things big time….No more Vanilla team…Kreider will be unleashed and the youth will be developed…I am not expecting the Cup this year, but do expect to see improvement in structure, discipline and attention to detail…….so to those nervous Ranger fans out there…be patient…and yes I am Richter’s shrink>

      • Jul 9, 2018 at 6:43 pm

        Such a smart poster.

  • Jul 9, 2018 at 11:50 am

    Patrick Maroon, 1 year 1.7mm…why not sign him to that…I thought the wanted to be hard to play against…who is the meat on this team..Zucc.

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 11:54 am

      Hometown discount.

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 12:56 pm

      JB, in a heartbeat,I like Maroon’s game, his grit and old school approach to the game would be a breath of fresh air on this current Ranger team!!

      • Jul 9, 2018 at 2:53 pm

        Kreider should watch his and James Neal’s game in the DZ and NZ. People fear for there safety at all times when power forwards like like that skating around looking to make a play. You can feel it shift after shift when a guy like Maroon wants to finish a check. There what mades guys like Avery and Cally fan favorites during their time on the Garden ice.

        If you ever played than you would know about this edge that I’m talking about.

  • Jul 9, 2018 at 1:31 pm


    Didn’t this line score something like five goals at even strength last year? Some lines have had better weeks.

    Yes, this line could amount to something, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    • Jul 9, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      Shh you are ruining peoples narratives…

      Zib hasn’t been a good 5 on 5 player since his days in Ottawa that now affect Buch’s game. Kreider is pretty basic considering al his speed that he brings. All the goalies know about his shot so once again Buch and his 5 on 5 playmaking will get the short end of the stick. We need to break up the KBZ line imo. I have Buch dropping down to the 2nd line in all my mock lineups. If any elite winger would join this team than Buch would 100% have to drop down. I can see a new 1st line within a year and a half and it might get formed due to Quinn just wanting to on the fly or because of injury problems. The KBZ line will have to be consistent on the PP as well if they want to be something special for this club.

  • Jul 9, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Who really drives the KZB line?


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