Feb 7, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) stops Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) on a shootout attempt at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Rangers won 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers Series Preview

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The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers square off in their first post-season series since the 2007-08 playoffs where the Penguins beat the Rangers in 5 games.

 

SEASON SERIES

The Pittsburgh Penguins played the Rangers 4 times this season, with each team winning once in regulation and once in a shootout.  The Rangers scored one more goal than the Penguins head to head.

 

THE MATCHUPS

Goaltending

The much maligned Marc-Andre Fleury got a big monkey off his back in the first round against the Blue Jackets.  It was his first playoff series win since beating the Ottawa Senators in 2010.  It was by no means perfect, but he had to gain some confidence with being able to start and finish a winning series.

Henrik Lundqvist was very solid in the first round against the Flyers, posting very respectable numbers and making timely saves, including the third period of game 7.

Defense

The duo of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi carried the mail for the Rangers.  When they were playing well, the Rangers won, when they struggled, they lost.

Paul Martin might have been the best blueliner of the first round for the Pittsburgh Penguins, finishing the series with 8 points and a +7 rating.  Matt Niskanen has also been very good and Kris Letang is still finding his form after returning from a stroke.

 

Offense

Sidney Crosby still hasn’t scored a goal in his last 11 playoff games, but did have 6 assists in the first round.  Evgeni Malkin‘s hat trick in the series clinching game is hopefully a sign of things to come for the Penguins’ sake.

Eight different Rangers’ forwards had 2 goals each, so their scoring was done by committee in the first round.  None of those goals were scored by Rick Nash, who will need to light the lamp if the Rangers hope to beat Pittsburgh.

Special Teams

Both teams took more penalties than they would have like, and both struggled on the PK.  Pittsburgh’s 74.1% kill rate was slightly above the Rangers’ 71.4%.

Both teams had 29 power plays in the first round, with the Penguins scoring twice as many goals as the Rangers with the man advantage (6 to 3).

PREDICTION

There will be pressure on both teams’ stars to step up.  Malkin showed signs of breaking out, but the likes of Crosby, Nash, Martin St. Louis and Chris Kunitz need to provide more leadership at the offensive end. The weight off Fleury’s shoulders should help him settle down and return to form.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS  in 6

 

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Tags: Evgeni Malkin Henrik Lundqvist NHL Playoffs Rick Nash Sidney Crosby

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