David Quinn made the right move in benching Mika Zibanejad

By Anthony Scultore
Feb 8, 2021; New York, NY, USA; Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers skates against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on February 08, 2021 in New York City. The Islanders shut-out the Rangers 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

At some point, enough is enough. Last night David Quinn had seen enough from his team and his star goal scorer from last season. The Rangers once again came out flat against the rival Devils and knew he needed to do something drastic.

He did so by benching Mika Zibanejad late in the first and for half of the second period. The response was a much sharper Rangers team in the second period and a 2-1 lead going into the third.

Zibanejad benching had the desired effect

While there was a lot of fixation on Mika being benched, David Quinn made it clear that it wasn’t just about him.

“I didn’t love his game, I didn’t like a lot about our first period” the coach explained about Mika and his team’s play. “I just thought sitting him for a while was going to give him a little jolt and give our team a little jolt. I did like what I saw when he came back out.”

And there was a noticeable jolt.

When a coach preaches meritocracy, but appears to hold different a standard depending on each player the message will not resonate. That is no longer the case as Quinn ran out of patience with his struggling star and gave him some time on the bench. It ended with Zibanejad finishing the game with a season low 13:04 TOI.

Mika Zibanejad stats
Feb 4, 2021; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) attempts to control the puck from the ice against the Washington Capitals during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

As for the benching – it worked. The Blueshirts played inspired the rest of the way and scored six goals. More importantly, Zibanejad responded and played with more energy and was rewarded with an assist on Alexis Lafrenière’s late goal.

Where do we go from here?

So where does Mika Zibanejad go from here? If he listened closely to what else his coach said last night it’s pretty clear.

“I was just going to see how he was playing, how he was competing, how he was skating,” Quinn explained. “If I thought I saw an uptick in his play, I was going to continue to play him and if not, he was going to continue to sit. That’s really what it came down to.”

Now Mika must do his part and pick up where he left off late in the third period. If not, another ride on the pine will be inevitable. Zibanejad’s run out of runway with his coach.

For those who want to continue to question Quinn as someone who plays favorites – well you ran out of runway too.

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