The New York Rangers are 10 going on 11 games into the regular season today. They currently sit at 4-4-2 and 7th place in the East Division. The Rangers have been somewhat inconsistent this year. Some stars, like Artemi Panarin, have come to play so far. Others, like star center Mika Zibanejad, have been nearly invisible in the first ten games. So, what’s going on with Zibanejad? And do the Rangers need more of him to succeed?
Stellar Last Season
Mika Zibanejad came into this year after an amazing previous campaign. He comes off a year where he put up 41 goals and 34 assists for 75 points in just 57 games. Mika was a goal-scoring machine, having the highest goals per game of any player in the league. His scoring saw a skyrocket towards the end of the season, with his notable 5 goal night against the Washington Capitals. He was electric on the top line with linemates Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich, who were a massive part of the Rangers’ playoff push. The KZB line combined for 166 points, led by Mika’s 75 points. Mika is the scoring touch on that line, having more goals than Buchnevich and Kreider combined. It’s safe to say that Mika leading the team in goals and second in assists played a major role in making the playoffs last year.
Zibanejad’s Slow Start
After a career year, Zibanejad has seemed to slow down to start the 2021 season. In the first 10 games, he has put up 1 goal and 2 assists for 3 points in 10 games. He has made much less of an offensive impact on the Rangers, especially during even strength. His one goal comes on the power play, and other than that he’s had trouble producing offensively other than that. He remains on the first line with Kreider and Buchnevich, but neither of them has seen the same decrease in production that Zibanejad has. Kreider, although doing poorly, still is doing better than Mika with 4 goals and no assists. Buchnevich hasn’t missed a beat, with 3 goals and 5 assists. So what is Mika’s problem so far then?
Looking through Mika Zibanejad’s stats, a lot seems to be the same, other than points obviously. However, there is one thing that stands out on Mika’s stat sheet. His shooting percentage this year has tanked in comparison to previous years. In last year’s 41 goal season, he had a shooting percentage of 19.7%. Through 10 games this year it’s 2.9%, way lower than any other year in his career.
Last year, Zibanejad was lethal when given any kind of chance. If the puck was on his stick he wasn’t going to miss his shot. Throughout this year, he has gotten a similar amount of chances, but he hasn’t finished on them. Zibanejad has had a flurry of scoring opportunities but he hasn’t had that same finish that he’s had in the past.
One possible explanation is Covid-19. Zibanejad missed almost the entirety of training camp with covid, and he might still be experiencing the long-lasting effects of having it. Missing training camp doesn’t help being prepared for the season either
Zibanejad’s Effect on the Rangers
The Rangers are clearly missing Zibanejad’s superstar play. Mika provides everything the Rangers need to succeed right now. The Rangers are lacking scoring, namely the ability to finish chances. With all the talent on this roster, the Rangers should be able to put up way more goals than they currently do. This scoring talent needs to come alive and start finishing chances, eventually, they’ll start going in.
Zibanejad is an elite center with amazing scoring ability. He has the potential to lead the Rangers as their number one center. He can do everything that the Rangers need and more, and the Rangers are gonna need him to start showing up if they expect to succeed.