Explore the rollercoaster journey of New York Rangers Center Mika Zibanejad’s season as he searches for his scoring touch. Dive into the stats, debunk myths, and discover how head coach Peter Laviolette’s strategic tinkering could reignite the spark.
Mika Zibanejad seems to have left his magic wand in Sweden. Through 16 games, the 30-year-old has just two goals. It’s not the start that was expected from the $8.5 million center. However, the New York Rangers still stand firm, with a 12-3-1 record. On the man advantage, which is his bread and butter, the Blueshirts have survived with a 32.7% conversion rate on power plays, good for second in the league, and have netted 17 power-play goals. The power play’s a wagon, even with Zibanejad’s slow burn.
Mika Zibanejad’s Magic Wand on Hiatus:
Now, about his accuracy – last season, Zibanejad missed the net 117 times, landing him ninth in the league. Only 17 of his 39 shots on the man advantage this year have been on goal. Yet even when those one-timers are off the mark, he’s a linchpin on the power play. Mika’s mere presence opens up opportunities for Chris Kreider, who’s atop the league with six power-play goals.
However, Zibanejad’s five-on-five game needs awakening. When goaltenders Jake Allen, Darcy Kuemper, Anton Forsberg, Ville Husso, Karel Vejmelka, Connor Ingram, Alexandar Georgiev, and Akira Schmid have the same amount of even strength points as you (1), something is wrong.
Zibanejad’s faceoff success rate has slipped from 57% last year to 53% this season. Offensively, he’s bringing minimal heat with a 0.3 offensive points share, a significant nosedive from the previous year’s 7.8. He’s holding his ground defensively, but there’s a dip from a 2.8 defensive point share to 0.3.
Let’s not forget his wingman, Kreider, on the first line. He’s grappling with his challenges at even strength. His offensive points share is 1.5 compared to 4.5 last year. Defensively, it’s 0.6 thus far compared to 2.5 previously. However, those deflection power-play goals compensate for any struggles. He’s tied for the league lead with a six, on the-man advantage.
And then, there’s this misconception about Zibanejad’s “slow start every year” narrative. That’s not entirely true. If you look at his 5v5 points in the first 16 games each season of his Blueshirts tenure, he’s had some strong starts, except for that rough patch in the truncated 20-21 season.
Maybe Peter Laviolette can put Zibanejad between the burgeoning Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere. While that shouldn’t be a long-term thing, it won’t hurt to tinker with it early in the season as you try to get your star center going.
“I personally think it’s just a matter of time,” Laviolette said last week. “He’s had looks, and the fact that he’s having looks and he knows how to shoot the puck, he knows how to find it from that spot, I think it’s a matter of time. I really do.”
Seeing Zibanejad still loose and smiling between warmups and in practice showed he wasn’t letting the tough times get to him. Then came Monday’s 6-3 loss to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center, which snapped the Blueshirts’ eleven-game point streak. Zibanejad was gripping his stick tighter and seemed hesitant to shoot. Panarin’s 15 game point streak and five tilt multi-point streak ended, despite his best efforts to keep it rolling. It was where Mika knew he needed to step up and didn’t.
That said, there’s still time for him to find his game. It could be a matter of slowing things down for him. It’s a cliche because hockey is a fast sport but also technically slow.
So, hang in there; the storm will pass, and we’ll see Zibanejad lighting the lamp like we know he can! Mika Magic will return to a TV near you soon.