Rangers still searching for reliable offense from other lines, how about this one…
After 4 games the Rangers top line of Panarin, Zibanejad, and Buchnevich have accounted for 7 points at even strength. The rest of the forwards, including the now traded Vlad Namestnikov and Michael Haley who played his first game in NJ have accounted for 7 points at even strength as well.
Needless to say, that’s a problem!
That’s 13 forwards putting up the same amount of even strength points as just 3 forwards. More than half of those points come from the 2nd line of Strome centering both Kreider and Kakko who have combined for 4. The Rangers simply need more from all their lines 5 on 5, but the 2nd line is supposed to be producing more than this.
Last night, Brett Howden got a chance to center the 2nd line and there wasn’t any noticeable difference over Ryan Strome. The Rangers really need to consider bringing up the bigger, faster, and more dynamic Filip Chytil from Hartford soon, but it still may not be the balance the Rangers need.
One move that isn’t being considered enough is taking Artemiy Panarin and “dropping” him to the 2nd line with Kaapo Kakko. Mika Zibanejad has had success with both Kreider and Buchnevich last season (the KZB line) so it is reasonable to assume similar success now.
Zibanejad is the catalyst for any line, but no one is able to play that role on the 2nd line right now. By slotting Panarin there, he could drive that line and improve the top 6 balance immediately, regardless who the center is. It’s a change I believe the Rangers should try and give the opposition more than one line to focus on.
Panarin has the ability to open the ice for his line mates because he draws defenders to him. Who knows, maybe we could see Kakko stop trying to beat 4 defenders on almost every shift and start scoring at the pace we all expected to start the year. Simply put, that won’t happen unless David Quinn splits his two superstars up to spread the offensive production throughout the lineup.