The wonder is, the Rangers have won five straight, are 9-1 in their past 10 and 15-4-3 on the season while their most feared and accomplished goal-scorer, Mika Zibanejad, has gone 10 straight games without a goal and has a sum of four on the year.
Zibanejad had one shot, plus one attempt blocked and another that missed the net during the Rangers’ 1-0 victory Friday night at the Garden over the Sharks. With four goals on 53 shots, Zibanejad has a shooting percentage of 7.5 as opposed to his 15.4 over the previous three seasons.
Yet, in a sure sign of growth, the Blueshirts continue to succeed. But it may be best if the slump does not continue much longer. At some point, the team will need Zibanejad to chip in with a goal every here and there.
Head coach Gerard Gallant rolled his four lines right down to the end, making only one substitution, with about 1:30 to play, by sending Ryan Strome out in Ryan Reaves’ place on the unit with Kevin Rooney and Barclay Goodrow.
The coach cut down to five defensemen for most of the third period, giving Nils Lundkvist two shifts worth 59 seconds over the final 16:56. The Swede did not get on the ice for the final 11:24.
The 12 forwards got between Reaves’ 11:27 and Strome’s 18:34 in Gallant’s egalitarian approach.
The Rangers killed both San Jose power plays, including one midway through the third period in which relief goaltender Alexandar Georgiev made a point-blank, left-pad save on Logan Couture. The Rangers have killed 14 of 14 over the last four games.
Morgan Barron, recalled from Hartford in case Goodrow wasn’t able to go in the aftermath of being struck above the right eye by a Keith Yandle shot in the third period of the match Wednesday against the Flyers, was a healthy scratch on his 23rd birthday.
The Rangers’ 15-4-3 start, worth 33 points, is tied for the third-best 22-game getaway in franchise history. The 1971-72 squad and 2015-16 team each compiled 34 points off matching 16-4-2 records to set the standard. The 1931-32 team also had 33 points while going 14-3-5.
The Blackhawks will be at the Garden on Saturday before the Rangers travel to Chicago for a contest on Tuesday, a night before the Avalanche visit Manhattan.
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