Underperforming Center cores
I think it has become clear that the big reason the Rangers were able to take both games from the Garden is because of their star center. Jack Hughes has just straight-up outperformed Mika Zibanejad to this point in the series and it hasn’t been close. Hughes has been the best center in this series and I would make the argument the second-best center in this series has been Nico Hischier. That’s the big problem.
Vincent Trocheck is a serviceable second-line center, but he is clearly the weakest of the top six centers in this series. He’s fine as a guy to anchor the two stars that are on his line if they show up and play like they were brought in to do, but they haven’t and Trocheck has not been able to perform at the highest level. This does not look like the player Chris Drury and the front office wanted to bring in from Carolina in the summer.
As for Mika Zibanejad, he has flat-out been a non-entity in this series. He’s got 2 assists. Zibanejad needs to be the best player for the Rangers or else they are not going to go anywhere. When the Stockholm, Sweden native is sleepwalking through a series like this, the Rangers are not going to find much success. They need their star center to wake up and match the production of Jack Hughes.
Filip Chytil has had a fantastic season and has truly broken through. When he is the best center in the series so far for the Rangers, there are glaring issues with this team. Someone above Chytil in the lineup needs to figure it out and get their play together because right now this has the Rangers golfing in about a week while the Devils move on to play the winner of the Hurricanes-Islanders series.