We know that Mika Zibanejad will contribute in many ways even if he is not scoring. The point is, the Rangers need a No. 1 scoring center if they want to make their mark in the NHL.
And No. 93 has put off one of his patented streaks, scoring even when he loses the puck on the move, as he did Sunday against the Panthers in Florida, and even when trying to pass the ball forward. well, he did at the Garden on Tuesday against the Hurricanes.
“Obviously, I want to score goals and help the team,” Zibanejad said. “But I try not to focus on a lot of things. The main focus is on winning.
The Rangers are coming off one of their most impressive wins at 5-3, winning 11 straight games and going 17 straight (15-0-2) in regulation. won over the Carolina team. The Blueshirts competed and improved from start to finish, overcoming deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 (entering the third period). They are 10-2-1 in their last 13 games.
“I think because of the identity that we’ve been building over the last year and a half and maybe even before that, we’re confident in tough games against good teams,” he said. Sweden, whose team is 3-2 in their last five games, trail after 40 minutes. “We know how we have to play to be successful.”
Of course, they need to get the puck in and get the puck out, the latter of which the Blueshirts failed to do defensively on each of Carolina’s first two field goals. They need to score on the power play. They have to protect. Yes, they need their strikers to score goals.
So, in two consecutive games, Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin scored, and Chris Kreider scored twice against Puddy Tats. Sure, secondary scoring is important, but primary scoring is critical for this team…and in sets that usually come with Zibanejad the heater.
Again, in Tampa, the drought was eight games before center Andrey Vasilevskiy beat him from the right wing in the first half. Even worse, Zibanejad’s five-for-five production was below his 10-season mark. He scored 0.5 goals per 60 minutes in this game, nearly a third of his 2019-2020 goals of 1.43 and down from 0.65 last season. He averaged just 1.76 points per 60:00, down from 2.79 in 2019-20 and 2.12 last season. Regardless of his other contributions, he was unable to score at even strength. The power play also stumbled.
But everything changed after Vasilevskiy scored a goal. There was different body language. There were different authorities. Maybe a different look in his eyes.
Zibanejad, who leads the club with 19 goals, told The Post in an interview: “There is an extra bounce in your step when the puck comes in, but I don’t think it’s unique to me. “For me, I’ve found that if the situation is different and the puck isn’t going in, I can be hesitant to shoot. There is some hesitation.
“My whole career has been like that.”
Kaapo Kakko’s promotion to the front line with Zibanejad and Kreider has turned the unit into a possession machine that opens up the ice for the No. 93 when he operates below the hash marks. Vitaly Kravtsov has played very strong hockey in the last three games, but relies more on his instincts.
If there was a downer in this game, it was Filip Chytil dropping to the fourth line in the third period after a poor job in the defensive end of the first two periods. Chytil (who swapped positions with Barclay Goodrow) and fourth-line partners Sammy Blais and Julien Gauthier had just one shift in the third, though No. 72 was on the late power play. However, he scored an empty net.
Still, it was an impressive haul for Rangers. And this Zibanejad continued in the game.
“I’ve always judged myself not by goals and points, but by playing a complete game,” Zibanejad said. “Since I started spending a lot of time here four or five years ago, the important thing is whether I’m doing enough for the team to win.”
But do you want to know what helps a team win? Zibanejad scored. It (also) helps the Rangers win games.
That’s what he’s doing. They are doing the same.