Where do Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin rank among the Rangers great dynamic duos
Almost every franchise has what hockey fans like to call “Dynamic Duos”. No, I’m not talking duos like Batman & Robin. The NHL’s definitive version is the one-two punch Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri provided the Oilers during the 1980s. Other great duos were the Buffalo Sabres’ Pat Lafontaine and Alexander Mogilny or Brett Hull and Adam Oates for the St. Louis Blues.
Normally these guys need to play on the same line to be a dynamic duo, but not always. Take the current duos of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh or Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton. They may play special teams together, but are featured on separate lines. You get the point, and these guys get all the points if you catch my drift.
So when it comes to the New York Rangers, where does the team’s current one-two punch rank? Let’s break it down.
Magic Mika Zibanejad and the Breadman Artemi Panarin
Artemi 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 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award.
This season, Panarin’s 95 points led the team in scoring and recognized by the NHL and NHLPA. On the strength of 32 goals with 63 assists, he is up for Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award.
Mika Zibanejad is the Rangers all-around superstar. The team’s top pivot has a booming and accurate slap shot coupled with clutch play-making ability. In a shortened season impacted not only by the pandemic, he missed time due to a neck injury. Still, he managed a staggering 41 goals in 57 games.
These two Blueshirt superstars only played a few games together on the same line before being separated for a great two line punch. However, they are featured on the top PP unit and have combined for 22 goals and 51 points this season. This is highlighted by Mika’s 15 man advantage markers.
Obviously, this is only one season, but you get the feeling they are only going to get better.
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.
In that season, Jagr scored 54 goals and 123 points. By the time his career was done, Jagr became the 2nd leading scorer in NHL history. His pivot, Nylander notched 79 points in that campaign as well. While their time was limited, they gave Rangers fans a very bright light during a dark age.
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Adam Graves and Mark Messier
Of course, I would be remiss if I failed to include Mark Messier and his ride-or-die wingman, Adam Graves. Messier is one of the greatest players to ever lace them up as the 3rd leading scorer in NHL history.
In the magical 1994 season, Adam Graves became the first Rangers since Vic Hadfield in the 70’s to score 50 goals. Graves finished with 52 goals that year, but the offensive magic was established in their first year together in 1991-92.
Adam scored 26 goals that season, which doesn’t seem much until you realize he never scored more than 9 in 3 full seasons before that. Messier on the other hand was a monster with 35 goals and 107 points in his first season with the Rangers.
Messier won the Hart Trophy that year, and the Stanley Cup two seasons later. No Ranger has ever had a better start with the team, until now with Artemi Panarin.
Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle
Rod Gilbert is considered one of the greatest Rangers ever. He and Jean Ratelle comprised two thirds of the famed Goal-a-Game line with Vic Hadfield. This “Dynamic Duo” and Hadfield earned the right to have their jersey numbers hung in the Madison Square Garden rafters. Yes, an entire line had their numbers retired.
Here’s the deal, these two played 16 seasons together, in essence making this a pretty clear cut winner for #1 Rangers duo. Ratelle amassed 817 points on Broadway, and his favorite winger scored 1021 points. These two were special, no question about it.
The Rangers greatest duo
So why have this discussion? It is because all these duos played in different eras. The game has changed in each of the decades they represent. That makes this a conversation worth having.
Now that you have everything laid out before you, who do you think is the Rangers best dynamic duo in history?
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Editor’s Note: Jeff Weinstein also contributed to this article.