Mika Zibanijad kept the magic alive under Gerard Gallant

RALLY, NC – This is a story that goes back somewhat to the beginning of the season when the Rangers were trying to establish themselves under new coach Gerard Gallant. The record was 10-4-3 and achieved largely on the unique brilliance of Igor Shesterkin when the Sabers visited the park on November 21.

It was 4-4 in the last half minute when Mika Zibanijad carried the disc across the neutral zone and flipped at midfield with an uncalled-for flight. Playing until the end of Buffalo, a five-man scrum developed along the backboards and three passes later, Ryan Lindgren clocked 0.4 seconds on the clock to take a 5-4 win.

As the orchard erupted, so did Zipanegad, yelling at Governors John McKissack and Dan O’Rourke. When he returned to the seat, Zebaninejad kept yelling at them. When the match ended, Zebaninejad was yelling at them.

And Galant was shouting in Zibanijad in full view, right on the bench.

You don’t see something like this every day.

“He was yelling at the referee, he thought there should have been a penalty in the neutral zone,” Gallant said after the match. “I told Mika, ‘There’s 0.4 seconds left, the match is over, leave the referee alone. “

repeatedly. This was six weeks after the Galant State. The coach-player dynamic was still developing. And here the coach was loudly scolding one of his leading players, all captured by MSG cameras.

Zibani Nejad is a proud man. At the time, after emerging from a season jeopardized by COVID and waning harmony with then head coach David Quinn, No. 93 was seeking to reclaim his place at the top of the league. He was dressed as the new mayor of the city.

I wondered how Zibanijad had reacted to her, had he and Galant met to discuss it, and whether the incident had any effect at all on their relationship. I waited to ask him so we could talk face to face in January. I found his answer revealing.

“It was literally a two-minute conversation right after the match ended. I was kind of excited. It was a revolution in governance,” Zibanjad said. “Was it released in time or did I have to? No, definitely not, but you don’t see me doing that often.

Rangers coach Gerard Gallant, laughs alongside Rangers center Barclay Goudreau, center, and Mika Zibanijad, right, during the teams' game against the Red Wings in the third period at Madison Square Garden on April 16, 2022.
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant, laughs, next to Rangers center Barkley Goudreau, center, and Mika Zibanijad, right.
Jason Szines/New York Post

“That’s what I said [Gallant]. We laughed at him. it was good. It wasn’t really anything, just the hottest of the moment, but to be honest with you, I didn’t mind that he did. And I think he handled it well when I didn’t agree with him.

“It was nothing. We laughed at her after 10 seconds. He never showed up again.”

Another coach may have taken it personally. A different reaction could have had a negative impact on Zebani Nejad, who incidentally scored only four goals in his first 18 matches for the club. Instead, Zibanijad took off and reasserted himself as a notable NHL center back playing for Galant.

And while I’m not saying there’s a cause and effect linked, I think the dynamic between the coach and his players is an important part of why Rangers are greater than the sum of their parts and are about to do so. The second round opened here on Wednesday against the imposing ‘stick’.

Zipanijad’s unit, Chris Kreider and Frank Vatrano are likely to draw the line of verification centered on Carolina Stahl in the first two games. That’s how Carolina coach Rod Brendamore faced the 93rd at home during the regular season. Back in the park, Galant will likely turn against power as he did during the year when he sent Zipanegad against Sebastian Aho.

Rangers acquired Zipanegad from Ottawa in July 2016 in the first legitimate move to bring back tools from managing general manager Jeff Gorton after Pittsburgh was expelled in the first round of five games. The Blueshirts sent an important piece away in Derek Brassard, who led the team on aggregate goals (18-26-44 in 59 games) in four rounds in New York.

Rangers center Mika Zipanegad (93) celebrated his third-half equalizer in Game 7 of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, May 15, 2022.
Rangers center Mika Zibanijad celebrated his third-half equalizer in Game Seven of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Penguins.
Cory Sibkin/New York Post

It was Big Game Brass and Zibanejad was aware of that as the Blueshirts approached the 2017 playoffs.

“Of course I’m aware of what he did in qualifying,” the 24-year-old told me. “But they didn’t bring me here to be the next coppersmith.”

we will…

Zipanegad led the Blues team in the playoff match in 2017, with nine points (2-7) in 12 matches. The Blues are leading the playoffs this year with 11 points (3-8) in seven games, including seven points (3-4) in the last two games against the Penguins.

Kinda like it’s Big Game Mika, don’t you agree?

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