Buchnevich, Zibanejad and Shattenkirk Lead the Way
By: Anthony Russo
It was on October 31 that Alain Vigneault’s tenure as the New York Rangers head coach appeared to be coming to an end.
The Rangers sat with a record of 3-7-2, down 4-2 in the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights. It looked like Vigneault was 20 minutes away from losing his job.
Larry Brooks, a writer with the New York Post, said there were rumblings that the October 31 game against the Golden Knights could determine his fate as the Rangers coach.
Instead of Vigneault being fired, his team rallied and scored three unanswered goals in the 3rd period and won the game in regulation, 5-4.
Not only was Vigneault’s job on the line that day, but the Rangers locker room was emotional due to the terrorist attack that killed eight people in lower Manhattan earlier in the day.
“It was a bigger than just two points today,” Rangers center Mika Zibanejad said to the media, following his team’s comeback victory. “We were trying to play for the whole city and all the families involved.”
Following that emotional victory, the Rangers won six straight games, putting themselves back into playoff contention. Players such as Kevin Shattenkirk, Pavel Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad have lead the way during the Rangers streak.
Shattenkirk was the Rangers big free agent signing in the offseason, and leads all NHL defensemen in points. He also leads all NHL defensemen in primary assists with 9, and is second among NHL defensemen in points, only behind John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars.
Zibanejad leads the Rangers in points, recording 18 points in 17 games.
22-year-old Buchnevich, who was on the 4th line just weeks ago, continues to ride a hot streak, recording 6 goals in his last 8 games, and has 15 points in 18 games played this season.
Just prior to the six game winning streak, the Rangers were expected to make some changes, this according to several credible insiders. Whether that be a trade, or a change behind their bench, was uncertain.
As Elliote Freidman, reporter for Sportsnet, said in his weekly “31 Thoughts” article on November 1, “They want more. Picks and prospects, keep them coming.”
The Rangers seem encouraged by top prospects Igor Shestyorkin, Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson, and they may want to add to their repertoire.
Although the team has improved their record, and now sit in playoff position, will that alter how they felt just weeks ago about not only their coaching staff, but going through with a significant change?
The Rangers have spent over a decade becoming buyers at the deadline and trying to win the Stanley Cup. Especially within the past few years, the Rangers have traded first round picks and top prospects in an effort to win, but it hasn’t worked.
Rick Nash is slated to be a free agent in July, and according to TSN’s insider Bob Mckenzie, if the Rangers aren’t playing well by the trade deadline, he’s likely to be traded to another team as a rental. Nash would like to resign with the Rangers, but they haven’t spoken with him yet regarding an extension.
Whether the Rangers trade Nash at the trade deadline if they are in a playoff position or not is unknown.
They have invested a lot of draft picks and prospects in trying to win the Stanley Cup, and Nash may have to be traded to get some of those picks and prospects back.
As long as the Rangers keep winning, Vigneault’s job appears to be safe, but another big losing streak could cost him his job.