Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk haven’t played a whole lot together. The time will eventually come when the supposed dynamic duo will reunite. The question is though, will the pairing of these two elite American defenseman work?
It is no secret Kevin Shattenkirk is elite when he has the puck. From his pass to his shot and even the way he handles the puck, Shattenkirk is a forced to be reckoned with. Playing alongside New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh is undoubtedly a welcome one for Shattenkirk, as the two played together for Team USA in the Olympics and the World Cup of Hockey.
The two seem to be a perfect pairing, but as the season progresses, there is a chance, however small it is, that the two might not be the match made in heaven that Rangers fans thought.
What the problem could be
McDonagh and Shattenkirk play similarly. Both defensemen are excellent on their feet and are more than willing to throw their body around in all zones. The most significant problem, however, could come from where they differ. That difference is Shattenkirk’s biggest weakness; his defense.
Already, the Rangers coaching staff noticed this wide gap and broke up the pairing in the middle of game one. Since then, McDonagh has been playing with Staal, and Shattenkirk is playing with Skjei.
The future of the pairing
The supposed dynamic duo has the potential to play again, just not at even strength. Before Shattenkirk arrived in New York, McDonagh played a lot on the Rangers power play. With the experience he gained, playing the two together on the power play makes the most sense. The Rangers are fortunate to have a solid amount of offensive defenseman. Not having McDonagh on the second unit will not be a loss to the power play overall.
Regarding playing together at even strength, it does not seem likely we will see the two together much. Larry Brooks of the NY Post reported that Alain Vigneault had some hesitation about playing the two Americans together.
If the Rangers organization decides to make a coaching change and hire Lindy Ruff, the pair will likely reunite as Ruff is a big fan of playing a two-way game. Combining Shattenkirk’s offense with McDonagh’s shut down defense, the two could bring new life to a lethargic Rangers team.
What if it still doesn’t work?
There is a slim chance, that if reunited, the pairing of McDonagh and Shattenkirk won’t work out. The two players are dynamic and compliment the team well, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. There would be good and bad news if this were to happen.
The bad news is that the Rangers fans won’t be able to see the pairing they have been waiting to see play together since July 1st on a consistent basis. The good news, however, is that Shattenkirk is not the only defenseman that the Rangers could pair on a shutdown line with McDonagh. Between Brendan Smith and Brady Skjei, the Rangers have plenty of good matches to play alongside the Rangers captain.
Whoever the Rangers decide to play Shattenkirk and McDonagh with, the team is full of defensive depth. Once they get the ball rolling on their season, the defense will shine under the pressure of the bright lights of Broadway.