Kevin Shattenkirk is Adapting to His New Role With The Rangers

Shop 2014 NHL Playoff gear at!

Kevin Shattenkirk always had dreams of becoming a New York Ranger. But when his dream came true, he initially struggled. The pressure was on. Luckily, Shattenkirk is no stranger to pressure. Today, Kevin Shattenkirk is adapting to his new role in New York.

He first started turning heads when he played his debut game against Vancouver Canucks in 2010 for the Colorado Avalanche. In his first NHL year, he had a nine-game point streak, setting him apart from most other rookie defencemen in history. When he was traded to the St Louis Blues, he continued to make history. In his first full season with them, Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo became the fourth set of defensemen in Blues history to each score 40 or more points in the same season.

Kevin Shattenkirk is Adapting to his new role with the Rangers

The much talked about defencemen signed with the Rangers this season after becoming a free agent for the first time. His first five games were poor, home pressure and the general team performance were the likely cause.

The homegrown New Yorker was signed initially to replace Dan Girardi, whose defensive skills had declined over the years. With a Corsi For Percentage of 44% last year. Girardi did the Rangers more damage actually being on the ice. Shattenkirk has been better so far this season with a CF% of 49.2.

Girardi shortcomings mostly hindered his first line defensive teammate Ryan McDonagh. Shattenkirk was placed on the top line to improve this situation. Statistically, it is a good pairing. Shattenkirk and McDonagh being almost equal for primary assists and goals per 60 minutes. In some aspects, Shattenkirk has surpassed McDonagh in points (22 to his 18 ) and Total Shots Attempts (148 to his 100).

Shattenkirk was also signed to assist Rangers to improve their powerplay performance. Himself and Eric Karlsson are the only two defencemen with 25 or more powerplay points each. Rangers are also well known for their poor defensive play, but oddly Shattenkirk was placed on the second line after only four periods of the season. He was replaced by teammate Nick Holden, who is a defensive liability and lower down on the depth chart.

Why is Kevin Shattenkirk Not on the Top line?

There may be a few reasons why he isn’t back on the top line. Shattenkirk has always been known to take risks, both defensively and offensively. He pushes forward and this has paid off this season so far with five goals. This is more than any other defenceman on the team. It is the same with his 6.8 shots percentage, it shows he does get pucks to the net. However, it doesn’t always pay off and that makes coaching staff nervous. He has made mistakes that have resulted in big turnovers, particularly in his own end.

So far this season he has racked up over thirty penalty minutes. Compare that to Holden with only two minutes or McDonagh’s twelve minutes, it does show frustration and lack of discipline. At the wrong time, this can be harmful to the Rangers as he is a key part of their penalty killing team.

It can be argued that the main reason Shattenkirk isn’t back on the top line is the compatibility with Brady Skjei. Skjei currently gets the second most minutes per night of any Ranger defenseman, just ahead of Shattenkirk. They both are talented skaters and both can play offensively. He doesn’t lack skill but is still relatively inexperienced at 23 years old.  Skjei expressed his excitement at having Shattenkirk on the team to Rangers TV.

“He’s been an unbelievable help,” said Skjei, I love watching him play and learning from him. We have good chemistry and talk a lot on and off the ice.”

Can Shattenkirk get them to the playoffs?

It’s evident that Shattenkirk has a lot more to offer the Rangers in games to come. He has found his place and despite a few mishaps, is starting to adjust well with the team.  It will be interesting to see how his defensive skills will influence the Rangers. It is a much-needed commodity to progress them further.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images