Boy, have the last few weeks been rough. Not having any NHL hockey to watch and not being able to root on our “Boys In Blue” as they were making their playoff push is certainly the least of our problems. Our elected officials are trying, hopefully with more compliance of fellow citizens to slow down the spread, heal the sick and bring a degree of normality back to our society. We will beat the Coronavirus. So, in an effort to take our minds off Covid-19, let’s turn our attention back to hockey just for a minute and recount the sheer and utter greatness of Gotham’s latest Dynamic Duo, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin.
Magic Mika and the Breadman
I don’t know about the rest of you, but if the 2020 NHL regular season reconvenes at any point and the Rangers continue their annual tradition of handing out the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, I honestly don’t know who’d receive my vote. Both Panarin and Zibanejad, while having differing styles of play, seem to take turns dazzling Ranger fans while bringing the Garden Faithful out of their seats.
Panarin’s silky smooth hands combined with his extreme hockey sense and uncanny ability to thread the needle while passing to a semi-open teammate should make him a shoe-in to win the Extra Effort Award. However, Zibanejad’s all-around excellence combined with his booming and accurate slap shot and clutch play-making ability has Ranger fans wondering just how many zero’s and comma’s will be on his next contract.
The “Bread Man” and the “People’s Captain” may not be on the same level as the Penguins Crosby and Malkin or the Oilers McDavid and Draisaitl just yet. However, I would not be surprised if number’s 10 and 93 reach that lofty level once the Rangers, as a group, continue to develop their youngsters and improve the overall team play. As I scan my memory banks, I can recall other tandems clad in red, white and blue that would immediately bring smiles to our collective faces.
Jaromir Jagr and Michael Nylander
While teammates with the Washington Capitals, Jagr and Nylander developed a bonafide chemistry that traveled up the I-95 corridor from Our Nation’s Capital to New York City. In the 2005-06 season, Nylander helped Jagr re-write the Blueshirts record books for single season accomplishments including most goals and most points by a Ranger in team history.
Brian Leetch and Mark Messier
While Leetch was certainly a force to be reckoned with by the time Messier first donned the Broadway Blue in October of 1991, there is no question that the “Messiah” helped Leetch bring his game to a new and extraordinary level. Leetch and Messier were the cornerstones of the 1994 Stanley Cup championship team.
Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle
Admittedly, the two French Canadians who turned Madison Square Garden into their personal playground were a bit before my time. I may never have seen two thirds of the famed Goal-a-Game line in person. However, their accolades and sportsmanship are forever etched into Ranger lore and their sweaters permanently and prominently hang from the iconic Garden ceiling.
While light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel may not be visible at this juncture, each day that passes brings us one step closer to normalcy and eventually, life as we knew it will return. And, when it does, Ranger fans can rejoice once again in the brilliance of their latest Dynamic Duo, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin.