The Kreider Zibanejad problem is impacting the Rangers scoring depth.

Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad are starting to become a problem for the New York Rangers. At 5v5 play, both have been shells of their former selves, lacking confidence and an ability to consistently drive offense and play in all three zones. While Zibanejad has never been a true play driver, Kreider has been.

Not all players need to be huge play drivers, and Zibanejad is the finisher on that line. He always has been, especially with that lethal shot of his. Kreider drives offense and gets to the front, Zibanejad fires away with Kreider in front to distract. It’s been a perfect 1-2 punch with the right complement at RW. This year though, no matter the RW, neither has looked good consistently.

Last night was probably the worst we’ve seen from the duo. The top line, with Kaapo Kakko and Jimmy Vesey splitting time, was absolutely crushed at 5v5.

I don’t put too much stock into single game analysis or game scores. Though in a winnable game, your stars need to be stars. Kreider and Zibanejad were anchors, not stars. Ditto Ryan Lindgren, but we’ve covered that already. Perhaps this was just a bad game all around, and that’s a possibility, but we’ve seen far too many of these games from KReider and Zibanejad for it to be a blip.

If you’re just looking at the scoring lines, you’d think nothing is wrong. After all, the duo has combined for 49 goals and 110 points. At 5v5 however, they have just 25 goals and 61 points. Zibanejad accounts for just 8 goals and 28 points. If that’s the top line’s 5v5 scoring line, it doesn’t matter what kind of 1RW the Rangers get, it won’t be enough to elevate their status back to respectability.

Simply put, the Rangers won’t last long in the playoffs without Kreider and Zibanejad playing like Kreider and Zibanejad. But what’s interesting is their possession metrics, per Natural Stat Trick, are fine. They aren’t the craters that many have made them out to be, but there’s still something missing. In fact, all of their possession metrics are in line with prior seasons.

If we want to look at some of the “luck” factors like SH%, that’s inconclusive too. Both have on-ice shooting-percentages over 9%, meaning they aren’t hitting some kind of weird shooting dry spell. It isn’t systems related either, as both have been pretty solid defensively and have been deployed more in the offensive and neutral zones than the defensive zone.

This is becoming more than a blip or a slump. It’s becoming an anchor for roster depth, and something that even a 1RW acquisition may not fix.


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