When a top tier player’s production is this far from pale in the middle of a season, the advice to him is to forget about chasing numbers because when all is said and done, the stats just won’t line up.
But the second period of a hockey game at the Garden comes Wednesday night and Mika Zibanejad would not agree.
Because after eight weeks wandering the wasteland, Zibanejad exploded for three goals and three assists in the Rangers’ seven-goal blast in the middle of 20 minutes of a landslide 9-0 win over the Flyers to tie the points record. of the NHL in a period. established by Bryan Trottier against the Blueshirts on December 23, 1978.
It was a throwback performance for Zibanejad, dating back to his five-goal extravaganza against the Capitals at MSG last March 5, which represented the zenith of a 41-goal, 75-point season (in no more than 57 games, nothing less) that had him on the precipice of a stature superior to the title.
But then came this season. Then came the offseason challenges of training in a pandemic. Then came COVID-19 that struck in early January and cost Zibanejad the first week of training camp.
Then came a season when the 27-year-old Swede looked like he had hardly ever been on skates before; a 10-minute pointed bench at New Jersey on March 4; and the first 27 games, in which he registered a total of three goals and eight assists. Even recently, although the center’s game had improved, there had been one goal (and six assists) in the previous eight games.
Then Wednesday night.
“Obviously it has not been what everyone expected, including me obviously, but I have been trying to work and trust myself,” said Zibanejad, who scored a short goal, a power goal and a five against five goals during the start of the game. second period. “For the last week or so, I have been feeling better in my game and I have received a lot of support and all the help that I need from the guys on the ice.”
Zibanejad scored the Blueshirts’ sixth, seventh and eighth goals, all against substitute goalkeeper Carter Hart. He scored a breakaway shortie with a forehand deke at 8:27, climbed up from very close on the power play at 14:29 and then completed the trick by driving into the net from the right side to finish a pass. -Go with Chris Kreider at 6:37 p.m.
“I’ve just been trying to get over this. It has not been easy. It is what it is, ”Zibanejad said. But it is a game. Overall, I’ve felt a bit better in the past a bit here. Obviously, production is a big part. “
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