1. Mika Zibanejad
With the trade deadline approaching, talk is picking up regarding who the Rangers should keep, and which players they should trade.
If you ask me, the DJ known as “Z-Bad” should be borderline-untouchable. Zibanejad is just 25, he’s got a bargain deal (just a $5.35 million cap hit through 2021-22), and he’s highly skilled.
Thursday presented a strong argument in that regard, as Zibanejad generated a hat trick plus one assist. He was involved in all four of the Rangers’ goals, and even scored the game-winner.
This four-point outburst leaves Zibanejad close to a point-per-game this season, as he now has 48 in 50 contests. Zibanejad’s been lethal lately, with 11 of those 48 points coming during the past five games. His career-high of 51 points could just be one hot night away, and he’s not far off from his career-best 27 goals, as he hit the 20-goal mark on Thursday.
The Rangers would be wise to hold on to Zibanejad, but the other red-hot Z on their roster might be best moved (and perhaps they could just bring him back during the summer?).
Zuccarello is really heating up in his own right. He collected three assists on Thursday, and all three were primary helpers.
Much like Zibanejad, Zuccarello has generated 11 points in the last five games, giving him 27 in an injury-limited 36 contests. Health is a legitimate question with the nifty Norwegian, but those health-inhibited totals could make him a value option if teams get scared off by the rental fees for, say, Artemi Panarin.
Speaking of Panarin, there were plenty of two-point nights that warrant consideration, with the Blue Jackets winger falling just short of breaking Columbus’ slump.
Sanheim celebrated his 100th NHL game by scoring the overtime-winner for the red-hot Flyers, and he also contributed an assist for Philly. Sanheim fired four SOG, logged 23:53 TOI, and also checked the boxes from a possession standpoint. The young defenseman’s starting to show why excitement for Philly’s blueline extended beyond the likes of Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere.
Highlights of the Night
Marcus Johansson was one of the players who generated two points (1G, 1A) on Thursday, and his goal really filled the effort quota:
(I’d say that you could score a goal like that in “NHL 19” by diving and hitting the poke check button, but EA Sports punishes heavy poke-checking these days. Try it if you still play one of the older editions, though.)
If Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t provide the save of the night, then Henrik Lundqvist did:
Lundqvist now stands alone in eighth place for saves in NHL history.
- As mentioned earlier on Thursday, Carter Hart became just the 10th goalie in NHL history to generate at least a five-game winning streak before turning 21, and Hart is the first to do so since Carey Price in 2008.
- Zibanejad has generated four GWGs in his last five games, becoming the second Rangers player to do that. Rod Gilbert was the first back in 1966. Road hat tricks are also rare for NYR:
- Panarin extended his streak of 20+ goals to four seasons, becoming the seventh undrafted player to hit 20+ at least four years in a row to begin a career.
NYR 4 – NJD 3
PHI 3 – BOS 2 (OT)
WPG 4 – CBJ 3
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.