Players

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

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:

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.

Powerplay

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.

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  • I think it’s clear that he’s dealing with some physical issue (perhaps covid related). The effort appears to be there, but he’s just falling short in every aspect of the game. fans need to understand that he’s the difference between us being 4-7-3 and being 7-4-3 — all those 1 goal losses, OT losses, etc. are directly related to Mika not being able to contribute to at least a goal or two a game, something he did in spades last season.

    • Sorry to disappoint you rangers fans. What happenned to Zib last season was pure luck. I have said before, we have shooters, but no snipers. It does not matter how many shots or even quality “booming” shots you take, if they are going in the middle section of a gollie, or worse not even on net, you are not going to score. Example both Zib and Trouba, but they are not the only ones. They need to employ an exercise from the all star competition where they have to hit the corner targets

      • Is this a serious post? You think Zib’s success last year was all related to good shot luck?

        Zib was a dominant player who was rewarded with goals and assists.

        Good shot luck is not the reason why he went from last year to this year.

      • I agree that the shots have to hit the targets and right now the Rangers are just throwing the pucks at the net or trying to make that perfect pass but fanning on shots. I have never seen Zib fan on so many shots. The timing just looks off. I think the rangers should spend some practices or every practice working on skills. Players like Mathews, OV and even remember M. St. Louis, used to spend a lot of time practising. I don’t hear about any Rangers players spending an extra 30 – 40 minutes shooting pucks or trying different shots. I think that’s what they need.

  • Zibs needs a 2 or 3 goal game this evening to get him going…If he continues to not be a factor on the scoring sheet, we will not win 20 games this year…..and headed to another top 10 draft pick.

  • Can’t say I disagree, nice write up.

    I think overall, if Mika can shake this slump, it would do wonders for the mood of the team. I think that’s what I see the most. They have talent, they’re very young, they do look better at some things this year, and the d-zone has been better. But they just look flat most of the time. The energy is lacking on most nights. No way in hell should they get outworked by the NJD the other night. The fact it was Lindy Ruff who had his team ready to go after two weeks off kind of added salt there.

    I mentioned it after the first few games that I just don’t think their conditioning is up to par here. Very rarely do we see that extra jump in their stride. It shows up every now and then. But I still think that’s part of what we’re seeing here. I’d love to see that question asked of Quinn because that was my suspicion in the playoff bubble too. I think it’s such an underrated aspect of a team. We all just assume they’re in great shape, and they are. But how does that compare to other teams?

    And I’ll add this…after this start to the season, in no way would I give Kreider the C. He’s prob my favorite player, but he’s just been ridiculous to me this year. He says captain-like things. But he’s largely invisible most nights. He roars when he scores, but has been largely a mouse most of this season. He’s calling out the team after bad losses, but it’s been HIM taking bad penalties, playing soft, playing lazy with the puck. He’ll fly up the ice, and then arrive weak on the puck. It was him who had a lazy, blind, soft, back-hand pass giveaway at the blue line the other night that lead right to the empty netter. Mr. Unacceptable is doing a lot of things that he’s preaching against. Not once has he been the best player on the ice this year.

    Unfortunately we have not had an effective captain since Ryan Callahan. And we definitely don’t need another McDonagh…

    • I think the lack of a captain is absolutely critical. The absence is a David Quinn innovation. I suspect it is a way for him to maintain more control of the team, but I don’t think it is working and just shows lack of confidence.

      Tony DeAngelo is a belligerent a_hole, but some such players can be made to fit in and perhaps a captain could have done this.

  • Zibanejad is finished at least for this season and I will tell you why. The Covid-19 virus has proven to have long lasting negative effects on the body some of which could be permanent. Zib says that he feels fine yet on the ice one year later he looks slow.

    • I think COVID has had an affect for sure but he can get over it. I think looking at diet, sleep, and maybe a personal motivator/trainer help out would be great. Vitamin B, MACA, even caffeine would help. I am sure they have the money and staff to figure that out better than me. I also think no training camp has put him behind a couple weeks. this would be like game 8 for him on a regular season with full camp and exhibition. I also don’t think the way Quinn handles player who have lost their swagger benefits Zib.

  • I don’t think Zibby is or should be the difference between winning or losing on a nightly basis, neither should Artemi for that matter. This team has a lot of firepower that has been silent – Kreider, Buch, Kakko, even Lafreniere (who is looking more like an 3rd round pick ready for AHL at the moment if you judge only by the score sheet). Artemi has produced, so he gets somewhat of a pass. Only other forward I would commend so far is Chytil before he was injured. Too much East West with this team – thats death against teams that are collapsing around their goalie, clogging up neutral zones. They need to dump puck in, retrieve, shoot and crash net more.

    How many times have we seen guys make one too many passes, hold the puck long enough for someone to get into shooting lanes and block shots, stay stationary during Power Plays, stop at opponents blueline rather than timed entry on rushes, not shoot puck on fly but stop and hold it first, change at wrong times …..

    Sorry – that’s on the system and also poor coaching. Look at how the D has improved under Martin from last year – less scoring so far but better effort defensively – Its a different system of defending – forwards are not leaving zone as early – which might account for decline in scoring.

    Would like to see what changes he would make to Rangers Offense

    • Hawk:

      Lafreniere (who is looking more like an 3rd round pick ready for AHL at the moment if you judge only by the score sheet)..How did Jack Hughes look last year??? Give the kid a chance..

      • 1 point in 14 games? playing on top lines – really? – and Hughes looked a lot better at this point last year – not a good comparison – especially for a player who was deemed “most NHL ready” since McDavid. No excuse – sorry disagree on this one

      • I agree that Lafreniere needs more NHL or AHL playing time to develop. As for Kakko he needs to start producing, start crashing the net and get away from that 100% finesse style. It worked in Finland but the NHL is whole different ballgame.

        • Lafreniere cannot go to Hartford beyond a conditioning assignment, as he would have to be returned to his junior team otherwise.

    • Lafreniere a 3rd round pick? How many 19 year olds picked in the 3rd round jump to the NHL? Yes his numbers do not stack up to many recent #1 overall picks but he looks good.

  • All hockey teams look much better when their stars are scoring. Like Dave stated, it opens up time & space for other players and lines. It usually equates to some wins, which in turn gives the entire team more confidence. The NYR absolutely need Zibby to start producing.

    I happened to catch the last two periods of the Canes vs. Panthers yesterday. Great game. Florida’s star (Huberdeau) made some amazing plays and won the game in OT. If he doesn’t play like a star the rest of the Panther team looked just OK. Since he made an incredible assist and scored in OT he elevated the entire team to an important win. The Rangers, despite their record, have played pretty well this year. They’ve been in almost every game. If they have just received half of what Zibby (and Kreider) produced last season they’d have 3 or 4 more wins. It’s really that simple.

  • Zibby needs a mysterious upper body injury to sit for a game or two. Maybe it gets him rested or maybe it gets him mad.

    Move Strome up to the 1C and move ZIbby down to 2C. See if the demotion shakes up the offense.

    You have to do SOMETHING. You cannot let Zibby continue to be the invisible 1C for the rest of the season.

  • So, there are rumblings about the Rangers trading big this Summer. Barkov and Eichel’s name coming up with Eichel being the more likely.

    Does it make sense to send Mika the other way. In a flat cap can the Rangers afford both and do they want to give a 30 year old Mika a 10 year 11 million contract?

    Love Mika but with the cap, his age and injury history–just can’t see a justification for the contract he’ll get.

    Thoughts?

    • Trading Mika would just leave us in the same spot. We’d have the #1 center and still a hole on lines 2-4.

      BUT…. if including Mika saves one of our top prospects from being traded, then sure.

      I think my biggest issue with Eichel is the package it would take. One or two of either Kakko, Laf, Fox, Miller, or Lundkvist would have to go the other way. All of those guys should be untouchable to me, but I really doubt you can deal for Eichel w/o some of them included.

      Eichel is also a complete jerk, so there’s that too…

  • I can’t believe that Zib is not suffering from some sort of post Covid ramifications. The dominance from last year is gone.

    He’s playing hard but there is not the usual jump to his game.

  • This is one of those things where having the tracking data from this year was made public so shot locations for Mika could be compared to last season.

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