Rangers Need Zibanejad, Copp to Step up With Strome, Chytil Injured

The New York Rangers have faced plenty of adversity this season, and once again, they are in a tough position as key centers Ryan Strome and Filip Chytil are injured. This postseason, Mika Zibanejad and Andrew Copp have repeatedly stepped up, and they will need to continue to do so in order to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

Mika Zibanejad

Despite struggling to score goals early in the Blueshirts’ first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Zibanejad has been New York’s best forward in the playoffs. He is their top center and is reliable in all situations as he has used his speed and strength to create scoring chances and to defend well.

Zibanejad is a weapon on the power play and has scored a lot of his goals this postseason on one-timers. During Game 3 against Tampa Bay, he scored a power-play goal with a heavy slap shot and set up another goal when Andrei Vasilevskiy couldn’t control his rebound on another powerful shot.

Mika Zibanejad New York Rangers
Mika Zibanejad has played well for the New York Rangers this postseason (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In addition to his offensive contributions, Zibanejad is one of the Rangers’ best penalty killers. He disrupts passes, wins battles for the puck, and uses his speed to create shorthanded scoring opportunities.

Zibanejad has also made timely plays when the Rangers have needed him most. Facing elimination and trailing 2-0 in Game 6 of Round 1 against the Penguins, he scored two goals in a row and then assisted on Chris Kreider’s goal, which gave the Blueshirts the lead. He also scored the game-tying goal late in the third period of Game 7.

After not recording a point in the Rangers’ first two games of Round 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes, he scored a goal in each of the next four games of the series. Though he didn’t score in Game 7, he finished with three assists in a 6-2 victory.

In total, Zibanejad has 10 goals and 14 assists in 18 playoff games this postseason. He has carried the Rangers at times, and they will once again need him to rise to the occasion with the conference final tied at two games apiece.

Andrew Copp

The Rangers acquired Copp from the Winnipeg Jets at the trade deadline, and he has proven to be an excellent fit playing alongside Strome and Artemi Panarin. Like Zibanejad, Copp can be trusted at both ends of the ice, and he is a valuable penalty-killer.

Related: Rangers Need to Re-Sign Copp During the Offseason

Additionally, Copp is a good playmaker, and he has contributed offensively this postseason. In Round 1 against the Penguins, he had four goals and three assists even though his linemates struggled to capitalize on their scoring chances. He had a point in every game except Game 2, and he had two assists in Game 7.

Copp continued to play well in Round 2 and helped the Rangers shut down the Hurricanes’ power play. He came through with another clutch performance in Game 7 as he finished with a goal and an assist while also making a few key plays defensively.

Andrew Copp New York Rangers
The New York Rangers need a strong performance from Andrew Copp against the Tampa Bay Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Against the Lightning, Copp has just one assist in the first four games, but he still has six goals and seven assists in 18 playoff games. He will likely get more ice time on the power play if Strome remains out of the lineup. The Rangers will also need him to find a way to generate more scoring chances at even strength, as his line did not create enough chances in Games 3 and 4.

For the Rangers Moving Forward

It is not ideal for the Rangers to have two of their centers injured after losing two games in a row, but the series is tied, and they still have an opportunity to advance. They will need Zibanejad and Copp to step up just as they did against Pittsburgh and Carolina.

Hopefully, Strome and Chytil will be able to play in Game 5, but either way, the Rangers will need very strong performances from Zibanejad and Copp for the rest of this series in order to beat Tampa Bay.

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