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Who are the Penguins?

Another look at yet another playoff series between the Rangers and Penguins

Marwell zoo annual stocktake Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins finished the regular season third in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 46-25-11 which has matched them up with the New York Rangers in the first round of the 2022 Playoffs.

So, who are the Penguins? They’re Sidney Crosby’s team. They’re a group led by a trio of aging stars that are always a force to be reckoned with, especially in the postseason. In short, they’re an annoying matchup for the Rangers in the first round.

History

In case you’re new here, these teams have a lot of history. Does any of this actually matter for this series? Of course not. But we’re going to hear about it a lot because that is how hockey broadcasting works so we might as well get used to it.

  • 2016: Penguins eliminate Rangers in first round, 4-1
  • 2015: Rangers eliminate Penguins in first round, 4-1.
  • 2014: Rangers eliminate Penguins in second round, 4-3.
  • 2008: Penguins eliminate Rangers in second round, 4-1.
  • 1996: Penguins eliminate Rangers in second round, 4-1.
  • 1992: Penguins eliminate Rangers in second round, 4-2.
  • 1988: Penguins eliminate Rangers in first round, 4-0.

Why the Rangers Have this in the Bag

Igor Shesterkin. Remember how Hercules had to give up his godhood to save Meg in that spooky green ghost water we later saw in The Lord of the Rings in Disney’s Hercules? You know, that part where he wasn’t all shiny and the creepy witches who shared an eye had the scissors and were going to cut his temporarily mortal hair? That is what I’m guessing happened to Igor in March. He was mortal. He had to go through something to find himself again. It’s May now. Shesterkules is in god mode again. He had three shutouts in his last seven starts to close out the regular season which is good enough to have a place in most pantheons.

The edge that the Rangers have in net is only amplified by the fact that Tristan Jarry is on the shelf for the first two games of this series. That in and of itself is reason enough for the Rangers to feel confident.

We all know that goalies can win games on their own — especially those who can create offense with their stickhandling ability. Besides, this hasn’t ever been an issue for past Rangers teams in the playoffs, right? Oh.

Why they should be Worried

Going by the data, the Penguins are the better team at even-strength and, well, most hockey games (and playoff series) are won at evens. The good news is that the Penguins have been something of a mess in the final stretch of the regular season. The bad news is that the Rangers have been punching above their weight pretty much all season long.

The Penguins had a 53.33 xGF% at 5-on-5 during the season, which was good for eighth in the league. The Rangers, on the other hand, had a 47.04 xGF%. But you know what’s better than expected goals? Delivered goals. And the Rangers had more 5-on-5 goals than the P- oh, wait. No. They didn’t. The Penguins had more goals at 5-on-5 and allowed fewer goals at 5-on-5 than the Rangers in the regular season.

This will be something to keep an eye on.

If you want more of the numbers behind this series, go check out Jack McKenna’s preview of the series. If you want facts about penguin feces, read on.

Disturbing Facts About Penguins

  • They can’t even fly.
  • They have had an indirect role in organized crime in Gotham city for decades.
  • Penguin society has both king penguins and emperor penguins — they can’t even govern themselves.
  • The perpetually reckless chinstrap penguin only pretends to wear a helmet. This is profoundly irresponsible in the sport of hockey.
  • Penguin crap is visible from space.
  • If they could, Penguins would eat your eyes out of your skull while you slept. They are carnivores.

Pittsburgh’s Top Players

Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel led the Penguins in scoring with 84 points each but Sid got his 84 in 69 games — Guentzel piled up his 84 points in 76 GP. Evgeni Malkin also missed even more time this year (41 GP) but was still a point-per-game player for the Pens. Kris Letang led the blue line in scoring with 68 points in 78 games.

Old though they may be, the Penguins definitely have some serious star power. This Pittsburgh team isn’t the juggernaut it was several years ago. The Rangers had the edge in the season series (3-1-0) but don’t overlook Pittsburgh’s forward depth. Rickard Rakell was an underrated deadline addition for the Pens. he has 13 points in 19 games since coming over for the Ducks and gives Pittsburgh some options in how it rolls out its top-six both with and without Zucker in the picture.

Per Taylor Haase, these are the Penguins lines in practice right now:

Guentzel-Crosby-Rust

Heinen-Malkin-Rakell

McGinn-Carter-Kapanen

Boyle-Blueger-Rodrigues

(O’Connor)

Dumoulin-Letang

Matheson-Ruhwedel

Pettersson-Marino

(Beaulieu-Friedman)

Jason Zucker is currently injured but skated with the team this morning and will likely return this series. That will be one more story to keep an eye on as the series progresses.

To learn more about the Penguins and to get a different perspective on the series, check out our sibling site Pensburgh.

Data courtesy of naturalstattrick.com. Penguin facts courtesy of late-night Google searches.