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Sharks at Rangers Preview: Don’t play down to the basement

The Rangers are dead last in the league. Don’t make them look good.

Jan 25, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; New York Rangers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (31) defends as San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl (48) tries for possession in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are bad right now. Dead last kind of bad. They aren’t the only winless team, but they have the worst goal differential (-6). Even the Arizona Coyotes have a better goal differential (-3) and they hadn’t scored a goal until last night, in their third game of the season. The Sharks should be able to feast this game.

These two teams only play each other twice each season. There’s a possibility of four points in the season series. Get two of them now before the Rangers sort themselves out.

Divergent Defenses

The Sharks defense is pretty good and only going to get better as the pairs accumulate playing time together. Two Norris-trophy winners, multiple Olympians, All-Stars... the Sharks’ defense is pretty stacked. It’s not a secret. We’re kind of shouting it from the rooftops.

The Rangers’ defenders aren’t having a good year so far. Kevin Shattenkirk, arguably the biggest name on the Rangers’ blueline, is likely wearing a suit rather than suiting up. Shattenkirk has represented the United States multiple times internationally, including as an Olympian, and is an NCAA Champion. You’d think he’d be leading the Rangers’ defense corps. He didn’t even skate 10 minutes against the Carolina Hurricanes on the seventh.

His numbers aren’t super bad, but he isn’t performing to expectations. Blueshirt Banter had a pretty good take:

If a player is deployed in a role and given a job to do, a coach can choose to react to that context instead of the overall performance of the team. In three games at 5v5 he’s posted a CF% of 52.5 and a SF% of 60. He also has a GF% of 0 and an xGF% of 44.44. All the while he’s rocking a PDO of 83.33 which indicates some bad luck on his part.

The fact of the matter is Shattenkirk is an offensive defenseman with no offense to his name at this point, and the coach wants more out of him.

Big Milestone for Little Joe

Joe Pavelski is only one point away from 700 in his NHL career. He’s currently the Sharks’ third-leading all time scorer, behind Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. His points-per-game rate is actually a little higher than Marleau’s. Among active American NHL players, Pavelski is currently fourth, and within reach of Matt Cullen. He’s also second to only Phil Kessel in Wisconsin-born active players, and third all-time behind Gary Suter. He’s going to get that milestone point soon. Is it too early to congratulate him?

Early Season “Drowsiness”

As we know, it’s really early in the season. Maybe everybody is still trying to “wake up.” I bet you guys aren’t at your best early in the morning. Sometimes, we’re doing our best and just can’t get things to work—mornings suck. We can’t put too much meaning on these first half-dozen games, the early morning of the long day that is the season. The Sharks are adjusting to a few new players and a few absent guys too. As for the Rangers, they’re adjusting to a new coach after five seasons under Alain Vigneault. For quite a few of the Rangers, their entire time in New York was under Vigneault. A new staff and system can take some time to understand.

Bold prediction: Pavelski passes 700 tonight. (I was really hoping for him to get a hat trick in the Philadelphia game.)