As most of you already know, the Rangers will be playing Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the 2015 NHL Playoffs. The Rangers, of course, have home ice advantage in the series (and in any other series they might find themselves in this postseason), so the first game of the series will be played at MSG on Thursday at 7:00 PM. That's right my friends, playoff hockey is finally here.
Here is the full schedule for the Rangers' first round match up against the Penguins (from nhl.com):
|Thursday, 4/16||7 p.m.||Pittsburgh at NY Rangers||NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports|
|Saturday, 4/18||8 p.m.||Pittsburgh at NY Rangers||NBC, CBC, TVA Sports|
|Monday, 4/ 20||7 p.m.||NY Rangers at Pittsburgh||NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports|
|Wednesday, 4/22||7 p.m.||NY Rangers at Pittsburgh||NBCSN, SN 360, TVA Sports|
|*Friday, 4/ 24||TBD||Pittsburgh at NY Rangers||TBD|
|*Sunday, 4/26||TBD||NY Rangers at Pittsburgh||TBD|
|*Tuesday, 4/28||TBD||Pittsburgh at NY Rangers||TBD|
Some quick notes on the Rangers playing the Penguins:
- The Rangers went 3-0-1 against Pittsburgh in the 2014-15 season series. In those 4 games against the Penguins Rick Nash had 4 goals and 7 points, which are the best numbers that Nash put up against any team this season.
- The Penguins will be without Pascal Dupuis (out for the season), Olli Maatta (out for the season), and Kris Letang (out for the season) in this series and for the rest of the playoffs. The timetable on Christian Ehrhoff's return to the team is also currently up in the air. Mercifully, the banged up Pens do expect to get Derrick Pouliot back for Thursday's game against the Rangers.
- The Penguins barely limped into the playoffs. They finished the season with a 3-5-2 record in their last 10 games and have clearly been having serious issues with staying healthy all season long. The impact of the injury to Kris Letang cannot be understated. In 69 games this season Kris Letang had 54 points, 24 of which came on the man advantage.
- The Penguins have the 10th best power play and the 3rd best penalty killing unit in the league. As long as you have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on your team, your power play is going to be just fine. As wounded as the Penguins are, they are still a dangerous club with several players that can quickly change the complexion of a hockey game if they are given a little bit too much time and space by the Rangers.
Top Five Scorers
Sidney Crosby- 77 GP. 28 G, 56 assists (second in the league in scoring)
Evgeni Malkin- 69 GP. 28 G, 42 assists
Kris Letang- 69 GP. 11 G, 43 assists
Patric Hornqvist- 64 GP. 25 G, 28 assists
Chris Kunitz- 74 GP. 17 G, 23 assists
Here are the lines the Penguins rolled with in their last game of the season:
Winnik - Crosby - Hornqvist
Kunitz - Malkin - Perron
Bennett - Sutter - Downie
Spaling - Lapierre - Comeau
Martin - Lovejoy
Scuderi - Cole
Chorney - n/a
Yes, that's an "n/a" you see there. The Penguins played with 5 defensemen for quite some time after Letang and Ehrhoff went down with their injuries. They used forward Daniel Winnik as their emergency defenseman here and there. Yikes. What the Penguins will do with their lineup depends largely on who gets healthy by Thursday and who they feel most comfortable playing against the speed of the Rangers. We all know that the Rangers bested the Penguins in the 2014 Playoffs. It goes without saying that the Penguins the Blueshirts will meet in the postseason this year are a lot less intimidating than the team they played last year.
We'll have plenty of analysis and opinions leading up to the first game of the series to throw at you guys in the coming days, and I'm sure we'll have an open thread for Wednesday's 4 playoff games. How do you think the Rangers match up against the Penguins? How many games do you think it will take for this series to be settled? Let me know what you think in the comments section.
Let's go Rangers.
We want the Cup.