New York Rangers Player of the Week (Week 11): Is Mika Zibanejad finally back?

The Rangers’ top center and top line keep shining.

Leen Amin

Leen Amin

The New York Rangers may look suspect these days, but two huge wins against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning say a lot.

The Rangers have struggled mightily against better teams this season, so beating one of the best teams in the league not once but twice in a row is something to be proud of.

The Rangers have their top line to thank for their more recent successes and this week is no different. Mika Zibanejad has looked good, but took a huge jump in Week 11, leading the way for the rest of the team.

Player of the Week: C Mika Zibanejad

@ FLA: 1 G, 1 A
vs. TBL: 3 G
Average Game Score: 1.59
Average defensive impact: -0.09

With four goals and five points in three games this week, Zibanejad was the best the Rangers had to offer.

He was the team’s best player against the Florida Panthers, the team’s first game back, and their second-best against the Lightning on Sunday.

Mr. Hat-Trick scored three goals and his Game Score of 2.36 was his highest of the season. He was so good that he made people forget that he won the Rangers the game before with his shootout goal.

Zibanejad wasn’t great defensively this week, but he did more than enough offensively to be the team’s best.

Zibanejad deserves even more praise for his three-goal game against Tampa Bay because of the fact that the team’s star forward, Artemiy Panarin, was out.

He stepped up and went above and beyond in Panarin’s absence, something that deserves much praise. Things like this distinguish the better teams from everyone else.

Zibanejad is famous for catching fire during the second-half almost every season. Is he starting early this time around?

Honorable Mention #1: G Igor Shesterkin

@ FLA: 28 SV, 32 SA, 3.48 xGAA
@TBL: 25 SV, 28 SA, 3.00 xGAA
vs. TBL: 38 SV, 38 SA, 3.53 xGAA
Average Game Score: 1.00

Welcome back, Igor! After missing some time with injury, Shesterkin made his return to the team in Week 11, playing all three games.

We definitely saw some rust in his play. He wasn’t particularly good against the Panthers and was possibly even worse in regulation time in the team’s first game against the Lightning, but that’s where his struggles came to an end.

Shesterkin was fantastic in that game’s shootout, keeping the Rangers afloat until Zibanejad put things away. He built on that performance and was truly outstanding two days later against the same opponent.

He made 38 saves on 38 shots and earned his second shootout of the season. He was the team’s best player, even with Zibanejad’s hat-trick, notching a 3.53 Game Score.

Shesterkin continues to be excellent in high-danger situations: he conceded just two goals on high-danger shots this week.

Shesterkin is regarded by many as the best goaltender in the league right now and performances like his at home against Tampa Bay are why.

Honorable Mention #2: LW Chris Kreider

@ FLA: 1 G
vs. TBL: 3 A
Average Game Score: 0.89
Average defensive impact: -0.09

The last time we saw Kreider, he was the team’s Player of the Week (Week 10). He hasn’t really slowed down since. Kreider hasn’t been scoring goals at the rate we saw earlier in the season, but he’s making up for it in the points column with assists.

He looked great this week, especially offensively, coming in top-four in Game Score in two of the team’s three games. Kreider’s game has almost transformed this season and he continues to be a key piece as the season progresses and the playoffs approach.

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