Rangers Gameday Preview: San Jose Sharks
Tonight’s contest is the second of four straight on the West Coast for the New York Rangers (8-6-4), who are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken on Nov. 17. The difficulty they have had generating reliable offense at 5-on-5 was evident during their latest defeat as both of their goals scored were on the power play. Becoming a more dependable goal-scoring club is the result of a balance between executing chances consistently at even strength and on the man advantage and they need to continue to improve upon that weakness to progress on offense.
The San Jose Sharks (6-10-3) are an underwhelming 1-6-3 at the SAP Center early on during the 2022-23 season. While they are six points behind the Kraken in the Pacific Division, they need to improve their play on their home ice before they fall further out of the playoff mix prior to the midway point of the year. Here’s our gameday preview.
New York Rangers Projected Lineup
Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Jimmy Vesey
Artemi Panarin – Vincent Trocheck – Barclay Goodrow/Vitali Kravtsov
Alexis Lafreniere – Filip Chytil – Kaapo Kakko
Sammy Blais – Ryan Carpenter/Goodrow – Julien Gauthier
Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller – Jacob Trouba
Libor Hajek – Braden Schneider
Igor Shesterkin – Jaroslav Halak
Rangers Struggling to Score Goals Consistently At Even Strength
Zibanejad, who tallied one of the two goals in the overtime loss to the Kraken commented on the challenges the offense has had in goalscoring at even strength, “We have good chances five-on-five, we can’t expect every shot to go in. When that conversation starts going, it gets frustrating that you can’t score five-on-five. Maybe you might overthink it, maybe you don’t have the confidence, maybe looking for an extra pass to make sure it’s a better opportunity than you have because you don’t feel confident that you’re going to score. It’s little things and it can swing so easily. I don’t think it’s going to come from being scared or thinking about it too much. We’re just going to fight through it. It goes up and down throughout the season,” (from ‘Rangers still trying to stabilize themselves in tight Metro division,’ New York Post, 11/18/22).
Zibanejad has a fair point in that scoring slumps occur naturally throughout the course of a season. However, it is concerning for a club that is aiming to have another successful year culminating with another deep playoff run. According to Mollie Walker of the New York Post, Panarin has not had a shot at even strength during their last three contests for only the second time during his career in the NHL.
Related: Sharks’ Erik Karlsson Begins a Bounce-Back Season
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They need reliable production from their top six at 5-on-5 as the young forwards in Chytil, Lafreniere, and Kakko are not at the level where they can carry them offensively. Seven of Zibanejad’s 10 tallies have come on the power play, Kreider has scored four of his seven goals on the man advantage, and Trocheck has tallied four of his six goals on the power play. While they have shown how good they can be on the man advantage, they need to continue to generate chances to break their struggles scoring at even strength.
San Jose Sharks Projected Lineup
Timo Meier – Tomas Hertl – Kevin Labanc
Matt Nieto – Logan Couture – Alexander Barabanov
Nick Bonino – Nico Sturm – Luke Kunin
Oskar Lindblom – Steven Lorentz – Evgeny Svechnikov
Jaycob Megna – Erik Karlsson
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Matt Benning
Nick Cicek – Mario Ferraro
James Reimer – Kaapo Kahkonen
Karlsson Leading the Sharks Offensively, Quinn Emphasizes Club’s Growth
Karlsson is off to a tremendous start offensively with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in 19 games, which resembles his past years with the Ottawa Senators. If he can avoid injury, he may have one of the finest seasons of his career and would make a good addition to a franchise looking to add an offensive defenseman. Whatever the future holds for the two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, David Quinn has enjoyed his presence on the team during his first season as the Sharks head coach, “I don’t make a big deal out of it. Mike (Grier) and I haven’t had one conversation regarding moving any of these players, and Mike and I talk every day. I get everybody’s questions to Mike, you know, what are you thinking about? I haven’t spent any time on it, I know Erik’s in a good spot. He’s playing great hockey. And we’re lucky to have him.”
Before the Sharks contest vs. the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 17, Quinn commented on their struggles playing at home, “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be a good road, home team. And like I said, we’ve played well at home, but playing well and winning are two different things. We’ve gotta find ways to win hockey games here at home.” Regarding statement wins, he mentioned, “It’s growth. The thing that we feel good about is not only did we win, it wasn’t like our goalie had to make 45 saves in these wins. These were games that we won. You watch the games and you didn’t walk out thinking, boy they stole one. We had some stretches — particularly first period against Vegas, we weren’t very good. But we rebounded. That happens in the National Hockey League, you’re not gonna have 60 great minutes every night. The key is if you have a bad period, how quickly can you rebound from it? And we did that throughout the road trip.”
Players to Watch
New York Rangers – Artemi Panarin
While Panarin has struggled at 5-on-5, he is too talented of a forward and will have a big game or a stretch of good contests at some point soon. He had two assists during the Nov. 8 contest vs. the New York Islanders followed by two assists in the Nov. 10 game against the Red Wings. He has the capability during any contest to demonstrate why he is the Rangers’ most gifted offensive player.
San Jose Sharks – Erik Karlsson
The Sharks’ leader in goals and assists through the team’s first 19 games has eight assists in his previous five contests, including three to go along with one goal in the loss to the Red Wings. If he can keep up his hot start through the course of the year, he may be in the running to win his third Norris Trophy.
Tonight’s game starts at 10:30 PM ET and will be broadcast on MSG.
*Rangers lines from @vzmercogliano on Twitter. Sharks lines from @Sheng_Peng on Twitter.
Matt contributes content about the New York Rangers for The Hockey Writers. Matt has covered the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, and the Pittsburgh Penguins during his time writing for THW. For interview and podcast requests, follow Matt on Twitter which appears at the end of his articles.