The Rangers will go as Mika Zibanejad goes
Discussing the Rangers have been particularly exhausting this week. It’s tough to find fault in frustration with the team after they only played 2/3 of a game against the Devils Tuesday. It’s a daily argument over whether now is the right time to fire David Quinn. Another Rangers defenseman got hurt. Yet the team is still showing decent overall process and progress on the ice. The on-ice issue is shooting luck. And for that, this team will only go as far as Mika Zibanejad goes, as his struggles have had a ripple effect on the lineup.
Zibanejad is so snake bitten he may as well be a passenger on that plane in Snakes on a Plane. That will (should?) change at some point. Don’t expect something crazy, since Zibanejad shot 20% last year, close to double his career average. No one shoots 20% consistently. Not even Alex Ovechkin. However Zibanejad will get one that opens the flood gates, and it is coming.
There’s also a strong case to say that Zibanejad will shoot well under his career average (12%). He’s shooting 2.3% right now on 43 SOG. For him to get back to 12% shooting, he’s going to have to go on an absolute tear. It’s doable, but it’s not something we should expect. But Zibanejad getting off the schneid will have ripple effects down the lineup.
Even strength scoring for the Rangers has been a problem. I can’t embed the tweet with on-ice shooting percentages from Sam Stern because he’s private on Twitter. But here’s what it looks like:
- Kaapo Kakko – 6.32%
- Artemi Panarin – 5.68%
- Chris Kreider – 4.88%
- Jacob Trouba – 4.55%
- Adam Fox – 3.97%
- Mika Zibanejad – 3.80%
- Alexis Lafreniere – 2.08%
This team is getting very unlucky at the moment. Zibanejad specifically. Since Zibanejad plays with Kreider and Lafreniere, his scoring will impact both Kreider and Lafreniere’s on-ice numbers. You’ll see teams cheat towards Zibanejad, opening up the ice for the wingers, which in turn creates more chances for them.
It’s not just his line either. When Zibanejad gets going again, teams will focus more on him and less on the players that are scoring right now. This in turn provides easier competition for the other lines, thus opening up ice for them.
The powerplay has been atrocious this year. Some of it is deployment, and that’s on DQ, and something for another post. However Zibanejad, right now, has exactly one powerplay goal. Last year he had fifteen. The year before he had eleven.
The Rangers have the 28th powerplay in the league. This is directly correlated to Zibanejad’s struggles. As of now, the Rangers aren’t even a threat on the powerplay. Teams aren’t concerned about going down a man. Once that gets going, things will change.
Mika Zibanejad’s struggles have an impact up and down the lineup. The Rangers will only begin to dig themselves out of this hole when Zibanejad gets going. He’s due.