It’s always smart money to bet on Mika Zibanejad scroring against the Philadelphia Flyers. Zibanejad answered the call, scoring twice, sandwiching a Chris Kreider goal assisted by Travis Sanheim. We’ve been barking that the top line needed to not just get going, but do something at even strength. All 3 goals today were scored at even strength and all by the top line. I guess they heard us?
This also was a game that was won by Igor Shesterkin and the penalty kill units. Shesterkin made 36 saves in the 3-1 win, and the Rangers penalty kill went a perfect 6-for-6. Obviously you don’t want to give up 11 power plays in 2 games, but it’s telling that even when short handed, the Rangers are dangerous, and make smart plays to keep things to the perimeter.
Zibanejad has been a bit of a talking point this season. He has been off to a slow start, and hopefully this is the kind of game though that can help him get off the proverbial schneid. Mika is not only a leader on this team, but he’s one of the team’s best scoring threats when he’s on. If this is what gets him going, then there won’t be many complaints the rest of the year.
We also can’t forget Blake Wheeler’s contributions, as well as both of Mika’s goals were off great passes from Wheeler. The first beat a defender who was even playing the pass and it still got to Mika for the first goal. Wheeler has always been a great passer in his career, even if he’s not in his prime anymore, and it’s great to see that he’s starting to get points with those guys.
After missing action for 16 days, Shesterkin looks like he shook off all the rust from his return with this stellar performance. He was reading the plays extremely well, gobbling pucks up, and not allowing juicy rebounds. The Rangers have shown many different ways of winning games, and sometimes Shesterkin has to make a lot of saves. The goalies have come up huge to start the season in big games.
Let’s also acknowledge the 4th line of late. They have been doing a great job at spending a lot of time in the offensive zone the last couple games, preventing their opponents from generating much offense. Tyler Pitlick is still looking for a goal on this team, but he and Jimmy Vesey look dangerous at various times throughout the games.
It will be interesting to see what Laviolette is forced to do once Filip Chytil comes back, as Pitlick appears to have found his game after struggling early. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Chytil only just started to skate on his own according to Laviolette prior to the game, but there is still no timetable for return.
Kudos to these Rangers, who didn’t just roll over and tread water after losing two top skaters. This team is for real.