After suffering a broken fibula on Sunday night, Mika Zibanejad won’t play another game until mid-January. Now is the time for another newbie to take the reigns for the New York Rangers.
The biggest strength of the New York Rangers this year has been their ability to roll four lines. That ability took a shot Sunday night when center Mika Zibanejad went down with a broken fibula under a minute into overtime.
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The team that currently leads the NHL in goals per game with an average of 4.1 goals scored per game after scoring 5 unanswered against the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night to win their 14th game of the season is already missing rookie forward Pavel Buchnevich, who will be out 2-3 weeks with back spasms.
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The Zibanejad and Buchnevich injuries coming at the same time are not ideal. For most teams, this would probably cripple their potential for rolling 4 skilled lines, but not the Rangers.
Luckily, they had a guy on their fourth line named Brandon Pirri.
The 23-year-old center was playing on arguably the best scoring fourth line the New York Rangers have rolled out in their 90-year franchise history and now will have his chance at a consistent role in the top nine.
Pirri is off to a good start as it is, as he has tallied 5 goals and 5 assists through the team’s first twenty games. 3 of those 5 goals has come on the power play, a power play which ranks 8th in the league.
Pirri will now be playing on a line with league leading goal scorer Michael Grabner as well as the team leader in points J.T. Miller. With a line of guys who are playing out of their minds, it is very likely that a guy like Pirri will be in a role which could allow him to boost his point total by a fair amount.
And that is crucial for the Rangers.
If this was last year’s team, there’s a good chance that they would begin to fall in a downward spiral with these two injuries, but with Pirri on board, the team will still be able to role three effective scoring lines.
And the fourth line? It will still be effective.
Yes, while a fourth line of Oscar Lindberg, Josh Jooris and Jesper Fast can still be effective but it won’t be as offensively productive is the Pirri-Jooris-Fast or Grabner-Pirri-Fast line was. Even still the Rangers will be able to manage since Pirri will continue to allow the team to be a problem for opposing teams to defend.
Just remember, Pirri is only a year and a half removed from scoring 22 goals in 49 games for the Florida Panthers. He has the ability to put the puck in the net although other parts of his game aren’t up to par with some of the other players on the team–there are only three forwards on the team with a lower corsi for percentage lower than Pirri’s 45.9%.
The Rangers will not be at their best until both Zibanejad and Buchnevich are back, no doubt about it. But the team putting Brandon Pirri in a bigger role for the time being, is the best thing they can do.