The New York Rangers are experiencing struggles the Philadelphia Flyers know about. Gerard Gallant may want to take a page from Alain Vigneault’s book.
Disregard the points and standings. What do your eyes tell you?
Currently, the Philadelphia Flyers are fourth in the Metropolitan Division behind the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, and Carolina Hurricanes. If standings are gospel, then the Capitals and Rangers are undeniably better than the Flyers. Points determine which teams make the postseason, but how they accumulate matters.
A team that, more than the average, wins in overtime or a shootout could be luckier than they are great.
Comparably, Philadelphia does a better job of winning in regulation than Washington or New York. Winning in three periods better indicates which team usually dictates the pace of the game. It’ll usually articulate which team excels during even-strength hockey. Already, the Flyers proved themselves once against the Capitals. Now, the Rangers could be falling apart at the seams.
Known Flyers Killers
Refer to last season to understand how badly the New York Rangers had the Philadelphia Flyers number.
Mika Zibanejad had two hat-tricks last season. On March 17th, 2021, he scored a powerplay, shorthanded, and even-strength goal. Later, on March 25th, 2021, he scored three powerplay goals.
Artemi Panarin was a playmaker against the Flyers. He had contributed to the scoreboard in six of seven contests against Philadelphia in 2020-2021.
The issue isn’t a lack of point production between those two. It’s how those points are curated. Against disciplined teams, the New York Rangers could struggle if two of their top five scorers don’t contribute away from the puck. Alain Vigneault would have benched Panarin or Zibanejad for a game as a gesture to shore up the two-hundred-foot game. Again, refer to last season when he did that to Travis Konecny, then look how his game evolved this year.
Panarin has thirteen points (2G, 11A,) and eight are from the powerplay. Zibanejad has twelve points (4G, 8A,) and five are from the powerplay. Only Zibanejad has an assist while shorthanded. During even-strength hockey, Panarin is microscopically productive, and Zibanejad is a detriment.
It’s a different kind of hockey from playing the same teams eight times.
Changing lines will help but won’t resolve the issue entirely. Zibanejad and Panarin need to develop a two-hundred-foot game. The point here is that, in comparison, the Flyers are playing better hockey.
Regulating the Division
Alain Vigneault deserves a proper “thank you” for expecting a two-hundred-foot game from his forwards.
In 2021-2022, Travis Konecny is the prototype, not Artemi Panarin. Panarin produces more points, but Konecny is more valuable to his team. Specifically, that is what this is all about. Who contributes during even-strength hockey?
Defensively, Konecny is lightyears ahead of Panarin a season after being benched by Vigneault. What about James van Riemsdyk?
How the points are curated is the issue between the New York Rangers, Panarin, and Mika Zibanejad. Many consider van Riemsdyk to be only valuable on the powerplay. In 2021-2022, that’s not a fair assessment. Far and away, van Riemsdyk wields more merit at even strength than Panarin and Zibanejad. If these two teams played each other, Panarin and Zibanejad surely won’t be in a position to succeed at van Riemsdyk’s expense.
Konecny and van Riemsdyk are glowing examples of two players who weren’t known for a two-hundred-foot game but acquired it before 2021-2022. Gerard Gallant may want to put his foot down by making an example of Panarin and Zibanejad. No one is exempt; that kind of tough love from Vigneault speaks volumes in the possession metrics and translates to strong even-strength performances in regulation.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire