We know Mika Zibanejad contributes in countless ways even when he’s not scoring. But here’s the thing, the Rangers need their #1 scoring position if they want to make a mark on the NHL.
And the No. 93 comes off one of his patented streaks, scoring even when he loses a puck in motion, as he did on Sunday at Florida against the Panthers, and even when he tries to pass the ball forward, as he did at the Park on Tuesday against the Hurricanes.
“Obviously, I want to score and help the team,” said Zibani Nejad, who has scored four goals in his last three matches after going eight in a row without a goal. “But I try not to focus on too much. The focus is on winning matches.
“Thats all about it.”
The Rangers recorded one of their most impressive victories This victory is 5-3 On a Carolina team that won 11 straight games and went 17-game winning streak (15-0-2) without losing in regulation. 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 over the last 13 games.
said the Swede, whose side have been 3-2 in their last five matches when they fall behind after 40 minutes. “We know how we have to play in order to be successful.”
Of course, they have to get the puck and put the puck out, the last of which the Blueshirts failed to achieve on defense on Carolina’s first two goals. They need to sign up for the power game. They need to defend. And yes, they do need marquee strikers to score.
So, this is two consecutive games in which Zibanejad and Artemy Panarin scored goals, with Chris Kreider scoring twice against Buddy Tats. Of course it is important to get a secondary result, but it is necessary for this team to get the main points … and in the groups that generally accompany the heater of Zibanejad.
Once again, before the quarterback hit Andrei Vasilevskiy from the right in the first half in Tampa, it was an eight-game drought. Even worse, Zibanejad’s five-for-five production was lower than in 10 seasons. He came into that game scoring 0.5 goals per 60 minutes, nearly a third of his 1.43 goals in 2019-20 and down from 0.65 last season. He scored just 1.76 points per 60:00, down from 2.79 in 2019-20 and from 2.12 last season. Regardless of his other contributions, he was not recording with equal strength. The power play was also faltering.
But everything changed with this goal against Vasilevskiy. There was a different body language. There was a different salad. Maybe a different look in his eyes.
“There’s an extra jump in your stride when you get the ball in, but I don’t think that’s unique to me,” Zibanejad, who leads the club with 19 goals, told The Post. “What I’ve found for me is that when it’s different and the pucks don’t come in, I might be more reluctant to shoot. There is some reluctance.
“It’s been like that my entire career.”
Cabo Kaku’s surge to the first line with Zibanejad and Crider made the unit a possession machine that, while running without the tick marks, opened the ice for No. 93 at the top. Vitaly Kravtsov has played a fair amount of hockey in the last three games while appearing to rely increasingly on his instincts.
If there was a touchdown in this, it was the reduction of Philip Shettle in the third period to the fourth line after foul work in the defensive zone during the first two periods. Chytil (who switched places with Barclay Goodrow) and fourth-line teammates Sammy Blais and Julien Gauthier only got one shift in the third, although No. 72 was on the late play he scored an empty net to seal it.
Again, though, that was an impressive feat for the Rangers. And it was the ones through which Zibani Nejad continued his streak.
“I always evaluated myself when I played a whole game, not by goals, not by points,” Zibanejad said. “Since I started getting a lot of ice time here four or five years ago, the only thing that matters is whether I do enough to help the team win.”
But do you want to know what helps a team win? Zibanejad goalscoring. This is (also) what helps Rangers win games.
That’s what he does. That’s what they do too.