Rangers’ centers remain unsung but important players in 2-0 series lead

Rangers get needed play from top-line centers
New York Rangers’ Vincent Trocheck (16), center, is called for a tripping New Jersey Devils’ Jonas Siegenthaler (71), left, during the first period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Newark, N.J., Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photos

In a playoff series with plenty of storylines to focus on, the New York Rangers have received plenty of help from their usual stars. Adam Fox, Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, and Patrick Kane have accounted for 20 of the Rangers’ 30 points through two playoff games. 

Yet even with other stars such as Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck remaining off the score sheet for the most part (Zibanejad has accounted for the only point between them), New York has continued to dominate the New Jersey Devils and hold a 2-0 series lead. 

But just because Zibanejad and Trocheck’s scoring has been down, doesn’t mean they’ve had quiet contests. 

“They’ve played great hockey,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said before Game 3. “We don’t care who scores or who gets the points. Eeveryone is playing well, buying in, and we’ve had success with it so far so we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Going up against former first-overall picks coming off career years, the defensive work that both of the top-line centers have put up has been very encouraging. In two games, the two top centers for New York have totaled five blocked shots, seven hits, and two takeaways. They’ve held Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier to just one goal in two games. 

Hughes and Hischier are coming off career years in the regular season for the Devils. With Zibanejad and Trocheck continuing to be paired up against them, the fact that the Rangers have been able to blanket two of the top young stars in hockey is a testament to the talent guarding them. With the series moving back to Manhattan and Madison Square Garden, momentum rests solely on the shoulders of the Blueshirts. 

Zibanejad has been a member of the Rangers for seven seasons. The top-line center has had plenty of experience in front of the home Blueshirts crowd throughout deep playoff runs. For a player like Trocheck who signed with the team this past offseason, and played against his teammates as a member of the Hurricanes last playoff run, Saturday will be a perfect opportunity to experience MSG as a member of the home team. 

“I hadn’t really thought thought about it but MSG is a special place. Playing against them last year was a phenomenal atmosphere and I expect nothing else this year,” Trocheck said after Game 2’s win. 

Trocheck and Zibanejad are two important players to the Rangers championship puzzle. While they haven’t scored a lot in the first two games of this series, their style of play has been exactly what the team has needed to jump out to this 2-0 series edge. 

With a chance to get an insurmountable 3-0 series lead on Saturday night, the gameplan will expect to be more of the same from New York’s top-line centers. 

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