Matt Martin’s elbow to Mika Zibanejad’s mush sets tone as Islanders blank Rangers again

May 1, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield (24) checks New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

You could see it from the opening shift. The Islanders were unafraid to start their big bruising fourth line against the Rangers top line. Normally, you would never do that, but Barry Trotz’ fourth line isn’t normal. Not only did they control the opening shift, Matt Martin while playing along the offensive boards stealthily nailed Mika Zibanejad with a hard elbow straight to his face.

The refs of course either missed it or opted not to call the infraction so early in the game. As Zibanejad drifted around in the zone while holding his face and eyes swelling with water, Martin effectively set the tone of the game. Without Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, and Chris Kreider the Rangers had no physical presence and zero response to the purposeful insult.

Just like that, the Islanders won the game without even scoring a goal.

Back to back shutouts a serious cause for concern

alexis lafreniere
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Semyon Varlamov had another easy shutout against the Rangers, a feat he accomplished four times this season against them. Artemi Panarin was eaten alive for both games and is probably not at 100% since he wretched his back over a week ago. Ryan Strome went M.I.A. and only strengthens the need for the Rangers to go out and get Jack Eichel who is far more physical of a center than anyone they have now.

On defense, the Rangers who play well against fast and skilled opponents wilt under the physical style of the Islanders. It’s another verification to the fact the brass knows they can’t go into next season with a bunch of kids on the blue-line.

We’ve been writing about it now for weeks, change is coming this offseason. Expect John Davidson and Jeff Gorton to package their overload of young talent to help bring in a big center. Expect them to look at the UFA and trade market for some skilled size and grit for the bottom six. Expect them to add a strong veteran on defense too.

Expect changes.

“We played the Islanders these last two and we’ve got Washington and Boston, so obviously we’re playing playoff teams and teams that have aspirations to win a Stanley Cup,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “We need to measure ourselves against them. That’s what we’re trying to get to. So we need to compete.”

Rangers Postgame Notes

  • Morgan Barron made his NHL/Rangers debut in tonight’s game. Barron was the sixth player who made his NHL debut with the Rangers this season (along with Alexis Lafrenière, K’Andre Miller, Tarmo Reunanen, Vitali Kravtsov, and Zac Jones).
  • The Rangers have had at least one of their draft picks from each of the last five NHL Entry Drafts make their NHL debut this season (2016 – Tarmo Reunanen; 2017 – Morgan Barron; 2018 – K’Andre Miller and Vitali Kravtsov; 2019 – Zac Jones; 2020 – Alexis Lafrenière). In addition, 10 of the 20 players who dressed for the Rangers in tonight’s game were selected by the team in the NHL Entry Draft.
  • Eleven of the Rangers’ 18 skaters who played in tonight’s game are 23 years old or younger, and seven of those 18 skaters are rookies.

The Rangers are off today. Next game is Monday, May 3 vs. Washington (7:00 p.m. ET – TV: MSG 2).

Notes courtesy NYR

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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