Mika Zibanejad
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The fast start to New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad can be attributed to a more aggressive offseason plan and confidence in his play.

Frank Curto

The New York Rangers have started the season with a 2-0-0 record. Most notably, it’s not just any 2-0-0 record. It’s a flying 2-0-0 mark and the fast start been defined by the stellar play of center Mika Zibanejad.

Zibanejad has come out of the gate on fire this season, recording eight points (four goals) in the team’s first two games. He is only the second player in franchise history to record eight points through the team’s first two contests, joining Rod Gilbert in 1976-77 (eight assists).

The last time this feat was achieved in the NHL was in the 1995-96 season by Jaromir Jagr, who was also a member of the Rangers once upon a time.

The Rangers center has earned the NHL’s First Star of the Week thanks to his explosive start. He’s also become part of NHL history with some notable names.

  • The first Ranger to collect eight points in a two-game span (as well as back-to-back four-point games) at any point in a season since Mark Messier in 1995-96.
  • Per NHL Stats and Info, Zibanejad is the sixth player in NHL history who has posted a four-point game in each of his team’s first two games of a season (Reg Noble – 1917-18; Syd Howe – 1944-45; Phil Esposito – 1973-74; Wayne Gretzky 1988-89; John Cullen – 1990-91 also reached these milestones), courtesy of @NYRSatsInfo.

In the Rangers win Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators, his former team, Mika did something that had not been seen in 19 years. He recorded an even-strength goal, a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal in a road game. Does the name Petr Nedved ring a bell?

In a conversation posted by @RangersMSGN, Zibanejad discussed what he did in the offseason to help his game reach this level.

“A lot of preparation during the summer, took a while for me to realize how important that was,” Zibanejad said. “Not just from a training point, the right amount of sleep, the right amount of food, the right type of food.”

These subtle yet important changes have to lead to his explosive start to the 2019-2020 season.

Zibanejad also recognized the confidence David Quinn showed in him a year ago. This confidence gained has carried over to the start of this season, with the positive dividends gained clearly shown early in this season.

His leadership on the ice has had a direct correlation to the success of his linemates so far this season.

Artemi Panarin and Pavel Buchnevich have both had fast starts to the season. The trio has been on the ice for seven of the Rangers 10 goals scored and have not been on the ice for a goal against so far.

Panarin has scored two goals (four total points) and Buchnevich has recorded two assists. The three have combined to score six goals and nine assists for 15 points in just two games.

Due to a crazy NHL schedule, the Blueshirts have no games until Saturday when they host the Edmonton Oilers at 1:00 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden.

Originally, the break in the schedule was considered a welcomed opportunity for the coaching staff to work with the younger players on the team, but now it could not have come at a worse time. A hot first line with a two-game winning streak now has to rely on practices to stay sharp.

Zibanejad who currently wears the “A” on his chest, has been leading by example on the ice. The club has decided not to name a captain to start the season, but he doesn’t need to wear the “C” to lead this team. His play is doing that all on its own.

The hope is the Mika will continue to lead the way in all three prominent areas for the Rangers. His play five-on-five is as important as the power-play and the penalty kill.

Mika Zibanejad is carrying an entire franchise on his shoulders with ease up to this point. Give it a few more weeks and this club will see other players follow his lead and the winning ways will continue.

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