Mika Zibanejad is key for Rangers postseason success

Mika Zibanejad Rangers
New York Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad (93) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

He may not be the Rangers captain, but Mika Zibanejad has been one of the key pieces to the franchise’s second appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals in three years.

While he may not be known as a prolific goal scorer, he can affect the game in numerous ways, contributing to winning hockey. And if the Rangers want to reach the pinnacle of the NHL mountain, they will need Zibanejad to have one of the best series of his career against the Florida Panthers.

Zibanejad has been an iron man for New York in the last three seasons, only missing two combined games during that time. On top of that, he is able to handle a heavy load, averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time in all three seasons. His development has directly aligned with the Rangers’ meteoric rise as contenders, establishing himself as one of the elite facilitators in the league. 

The former sixth-overall pick from the Ottawa Senators was traded to the Blueshirts in 2016 in exchange for Derick Brassard, a move that was seen as risky at the time. Brassard was an established NHL veteran who was consistently healthy and a solid overall player for the Rangers during his three-year tenure. 

In exchange for giving up the veteran center, the Rangers took a swing on an up-and-coming Zibanejad, and the rest is history. Since then, the Sweden native has seemingly improved every season, using his veteran experience and leadership to rub off on his teammates and establish a culture. For a team that has gone through four different coaches during his time with the team, Zibanejad has been one of the steady forces to right the ship the whole time. What he brings to the team goes far beyond the ice, something the Rangers have needed when enduring hardships.

Now, Zibanejad has the chance to do something the Blueshirts have not done this century, bring a Stanley Cup back to New York. He has answered the bell at every call during these playoffs, whether it is scoring clutch goals or being a spark on special teams, Zibanejad has shown why he is one of the best centers in all of the National Hockey League. 

With a Florida Panthers team that features centers like Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaege, who have a combined 11 goals in 11 playoff games, this will be Zibanejad’s most important matchup of his career. If the Rangers are able to punch their ticket to the next round, it will have to be because of Zibanejad. 

The postseason is a time where the stars shine the brightest. One of the calling cards of Zibanejad is being able to dull the shine of the league’s best. In order to get the Rangers to somewhere they have not been in a very long time, Zibanejad will need to play the best hockey of his career.