Fresh off two points in Chicago, the New York Rangers have won three straight out of the all-star break. It's confidence-building to have such a dominant run after a long layoff, but some concerns are coming out of the land of Blueshirts right now, as the team is not firing at its best. There's no denying that some of the star players the Rangers employ have not lived up to their reputation, and that is certainly the case with Mika Zibanejad.
Mika has scored once in the last eight games and hasn't scored a 5-on-5 goal since December 23rd, almost seven weeks ago. That is not a good thing for the Rangers' premier goal-scoring centerman. He's struggling right now, and even his game-winning goal against Chicago last night was not the typical Mika Zibanejad goal we expected, but it was a game-winning goal from the Iranian Swede nonetheless.
Peter Laviolette tried to wake Mika up at 5-on-5 by swapping him and Vincent Trocheck so he was centering Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere while Trocheck was moved between Chris Kreider and Blake Wheeler. It's the teams absolute priority to get Mika back up to his best because he will win games for this team. They need him to not be so pedestrian. When was the last time Zibanejad dominated a game like we all know he can? It's been a while.
Even though he scored the game winner, Zibanejad did not have a good game. He looks like an average player, which is not what we have come to expect from New York's number 91. Keeping Trocheck on the top line long term is not how the Rangers are going to succeed in bringing the Rangers the fifth Stanley Cup Championshi in team history. So, what can they do to make sure Mika's going again?
Playing Panarin on his wing is always going to be a good start. Honestly, it might require a Frankenstien line with Chris Kreider, despite both he and Panarin being left wingers naturally. The organization's best right winger is Alexis Lafreniere right now, and splitting him off the second line that has dominated is not a good idea. It's going to be a difficult task to get the Swede back to his best, so how would you do it?