Well, well, well. We’ve got some new faces tonight! After dismissing former head coach Pete DeBoer and most of his staff, Doug Wilson has appointed some newish faces to lead the mother club the rest of the way. Former associate coach Bob Boughner will man the main man spot tonight flanked by ex-San Jose Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer and former development coaches Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov. There will be some new blood on the ice, as well. Forward Joachim Blichfeld will make his debut on tonight’s third line. Hold onto your hats, folks. It’s going to be a wild ride.
Luckily for Bob’s boys, they’ll face the league’s worst team by a mile. The New York Rangers rank last in just about every major department. The New York team is 31st in 5-on-5 shot share and shot-quality (expected goals or “xG”) share. They allow the highest rate of unblocked shots on the 4-on-5 penalty kill and the second-highest rate of dangerous shots. Because of goaltending, the Rangers have an all-situations goal differential of zero (at least per the NHL’s definition) and are only in sixth in the Metropolitan Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference.
New coach Boughner promises to open things up for his team in teal and get back to “when [the Sharks] jumped on teams,” and “never let them breathe.” If there was any team to suffocate with offense, it’s the Rangers.
That blob of red represents the highest rate of unblocked shots against in the league, as well as the highest rate of high-probability shots against. Behind that mess is goaltender Alexandar Georgiyev.
According to MoneyPuck’s expected goals model, Georgiyev leads the league in all-situations save percentage above expected among goalies who have played at least 10 games this season. San Jose will have to generate plenty of quantity and quality offense to get past the Rangers’ backstop.
With Boughner’s new-look lineup, that shouldn’t be difficult. The coach has loaded his top two forward lines with all of the team’s top-six talent. Evander Kane and Timo Meier will flank Logan Couture in a deathly first wave, while Tomas Hertl and Kevin Labanc will skate alongside Joe Thornton in a group that is the second line only in name. This approach is likely designed to hide an ailing Hertl somewhat and the team’s poor forward depth behind those stalwarts.
The most exciting change on any other night is what’s going on on the third line. Joachim Blichfeld will make his NHL debut alongside Barclay Goodrow and Patrick Marleau. Though it’s anyone’s guess how he will produce with a 40-year-old and a defensive center on his line, Blichfeld is sure to make the most of his opportunity. Just 21, the lanky winger likely won’t become a star, but there’s a solid chance he ends up an NHL regular.
Even the DeBoer-led Sharks should’ve handled these Rangers with ease. Tonight will be a nice-and-easy first test for the new team.
Expected scratches: Lukas Radil, Noah Gregor, Radim Simek (knee scope)
Rangers (via official Rangers website):
Artemi Panarin — Ryan Strome — Kaapo Kakko
Chris Kreider — Mika Zibanejad — Pavel Buchnevich
Brendan Lemieux (game-time decision) — Filip Chytil — Jesper Fast
Greg McKegg — Brett Howden — Brendan Smith
Brady Skjei — Jacob Trouba
Ryan Lindgren — Adam Fox
Marc Staal — Anthony DeAngelo
Expected scratches: Micheal Haley, Libor Hájek
Where to Watch
The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. PST/10:30 p.m. EST at SAP Center in downtown San Jose, California. You can check this ish out on the tele in the Bay Area with NBC Sports California or MSG network in the New York area. It will also be on NHLtv for those of you who prefer computers. Radio broadcast in the Bay Area will be on 98.5 KFOX and the Sharks app, as always.
Check back here later for some liveblogging (potentially).