David Quinn’s surprising Mika Zibanejad benching might echo with Rangers

We’d say the final time one thing like this occurred was when John Tortorella benched Marian Gaborik within the third interval of Recreation 5 of the Rangers’ 2012 convention finals in opposition to the Devils, besides doing such a factor was just about customary working process for the coach.

Therefore, no shock worth there.

This, although, on Thursday evening in Newark was totally different. This was totally different with David Quinn, who for the primary time in his three seasons behind the bench introduced down the hammer on one of many Rangers’ marquee gamers by dramatically decreasing Mika Zibanejad’s ice time within the first interval earlier than sitting him for the primary 10:46 of the second.

Lastly, after weeks of giving Zibanejad the good thing about the doubt he had earned not solely down the stretch final season, however via everything of the middle’s work underneath Quinn, the coach had seen sufficient, following one other interval wherein The Swede was a cipher on the ice.

And so he sat him. Sat him after a team-wide desultory opening 20 minutes, wherein the Devils solely may construct a 1-Zero lead due to Igor Shesterkin’s distinctive play in nets, and sat him via the midpoint of the second, by which era the Blueshirts had tied it 1-1 on Chris Kreider’s power-play aim.

Shock worth right here, all proper.

Mika Zibanejad (r.), who was benched a lot of the sport, celebrates with Chris Kreider throughout Thursday evening’s win over the Devils.
Getty Pictures

“I didn’t love his sport, I didn’t love what we had been seeing — I didn’t love rather a lot about our first interval — however clearly he’s had a tricky begin to the season and possibly sitting him for some time would give him slightly jolt and provides our workforce slightly jolt,” Quinn mentioned after the Blueshirts stormed again for a 6-1 victory. “I did like what I noticed when he got here again out.

“I used to be simply going to see how he was enjoying, how he was competing, how he was skating. If I assumed I noticed an uptick in his play, I used to be going to proceed to play him and if not, he was going to proceed to sit down. That’s actually what it got here all the way down to.”

This was a headline-packed sport. Kreider, off on one in every of his patented Did. You. See. Chris! streaks, recorded his second hat trick inside 5 video games, giving him 9 targets prior to now six matches. Shesterkin, who has elevated his sport over the fortnight, was compelled to go away with 5:52 remaining after sustaining an obvious right-leg harm that would drive him to overlook a spell of time. If that’s the case, it’ll have important ramifications for this 9-9-Three workforce that has gone 5-2 within the final seven.

However the benching of Zibanejad will reverberate. You by no means know the way a participant as prideful as Zibanejad will react to one thing like this. You additionally don’t know the way his teammates and greatest buds will react. Let’s not neglect. He was probably the greatest gamers on this planet final season. He was probably the greatest facilities within the league the 12 months earlier than that. And he was benched.

“I believe he’s letting the stats and all of the strain sluggish him down slightly bit,” Quinn mentioned. “I believe it’s attending to him.

“This can be a man who has been a fearless participant, he’s been a brave participant and he nonetheless is a man who will get within the battle however one thing is simply lacking. We actually continued to attempt to let him play his method via it, he actually earned that chance, however proper now we’ve bought to proceed to play the fellows who’re enjoying properly.”

Zibanejad performed with objective via his closing 13 shifts and 9:05 of ice, persevering with to excel on the penalty-kill unit that went 4-for-Four on this one. He was concerned, jumped on a free puck to arrange Alexis Lafreniere for the dart that made it 6-1 at 18:27 of the third for the freshman’s sixth level (3-3) prior to now six video games.

(And, whoa boy, Quinn has abruptly gotten so a lot better at creating children, appropriate?)

Zibanejad’s decline has been cloaked in thriller. Its long-range, big-picture ramifications are stark. However the small-picture ramifications of this benching might be stark, too. There is no such thing as a query his mates have his again, with Kreider issuing an unsolicited captain-like testimonial in assist of his beleaguered pal and colleague. You would virtually hear Mark Messier standing up for Brian Leetch. Virtually.

This was an evening of significance for the Rangers and for Quinn, who benched a star and whose workforce responded with 40 dominant minutes in its wake.

“I believe anytime you sit one in every of your high gamers that actually offers everyone a little bit of a wake-up name and I simply thought we bought higher as the sport went on,” the coach mentioned. “If that had one thing to do with it, I don’t know.”

The Rangers and Quinn had been ready on Zibanejad for 20 video games. The coach didn’t look ahead to 21. Now all of us wait to see how the alternate captain responds to this.