Zibanejad on scoring roll for Rangers entering Game 2 vs. Hurricanes

Zibanejad on scoring roll for Rangers entering Game 2 vs. Hurricanes
Zibanejad on scoring roll for Rangers entering Game 2 vs. Hurricanes
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Zibanejad and the Rangers will look to keep it going in Game 2 on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS).

That Zibanejad is scoring is not a surprise. He’s supposed to score. That’s part of his job as a top-line center and mainstay on a first power-play unit.

It’s the rate at which he’s scoring that has raised eyebrows.

Zibanejad had a down season compared to the standard he had set for himself. He had 72 points (26 goals, 42 assists) in 81 games, 13 fewer goals and 19 fewer points in one fewer game than he had in 2022-23.

In fact, Zibanejad’s 0.32 goals per game was his lowest output since he averaged 0.25 in 2016-17, when a broken leg limited him to 56 games (14 goals). His 0.89 points per game was the lowest since 2017-18, when he had 47 points in 72 games (0.65 points per game).

So it begs the question, has Zibanejad elevated his game in the playoffs or is the puck, as he said, just going in?

“Probably a little bit of both, but I think there is a natural bump up because it’s the playoffs. I think that’s what’s happening,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think he’s working to be a difference-maker inside of the game. Some of that is on him and what he’s trying to accomplish and do out there. I think some of it is based on the circumstance that we’re in the second round, we’re playing a team that finished third in the league, they’re a great hockey team and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to play.”

Zibanejad never felt that he was struggling during the regular season even though there were stretches when the puck wasn’t going in.

He scored two goals in the last 10 games of the season — both in the same game. He had no points in six straight from Feb. 24-March 9, one goal in 16 games from Dec. 30-Feb. 7, no goals and two assists in eight games from Nov. 2-22, and no goals in the first seven games of the season.

“It’s one thing if we’re barely making the playoffs and I’m not contributing, but we played well enough to win the Presidents’ Trophy,” Zibanejad said. “I go out there and try to do my best and do whatever I can in that situation. If things are not clicking offensively I know I have other areas I can contribute and I know I can’t just let that go.

“If I was really worried about that then I would start cheating for offense and that would probably impact me and the team negatively. I think in terms of the goals and the points for an offensive guy they will come, I’ve been just trying to focus on doing the right things and when I have a chance to attack the game.”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Zibanejad scoring roll Rangers entering Game Hurricanes

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