How the Rangers Can Beat the Penguins
The Penguins have an abundance of skill and talent on both offense and defense and when you put those things together, that leads to lot of goals. In their first round series win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Penguins scored 21 goals in six games.
What makes that fact even scarier is that the Penguins' best player and team captain, Sidney Crosby, did not score one goal in the first round. Crosby, who did have six assists in the series, was fourth on the team with 19 shots, but manages to go into his team's second round series without having scored a goal in his last 11 postseason tilts.
With all of that said, however, the rest of the Penguins offense stepped up and got the job done when they needed to. When a team has the likes of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Jussi Jokinen, and Kris Letang, goals are going to be scored.
What does this mean for the Blueshirts? Well, it means that they need to find where the team has holes in order to give themselves an opportunity to win this series.
The first hole that the Blueshirts should try and exploit is Penguins' netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury may be a Cup-winning netminder, but since that magical 2009 postseason, he has been dreadful in the playoffs.
Against the Blue Jackets, Fleury was good, but not great. He allowed several soft goals, especially in Game 4, and finished the series with a 2.81 goals against average and a .908 save percentage, numbers that certainly do not jump out and scare anyone.
Speaking of allowing goals, the Penguins seem to do that with regularity in the playoffs. Prior to Tomas Vokoun taking over for Fleury against the New York Islanders in the playoffs last year, the Penguins were giving up goals on a consistent basis.
In six games against the Blue Jackets, the Penguins allowed 18 goals in six games to an offense that isn't exactly star studded. Yes, the team won the series, but they certainly made it difficult by being leaky on the defensive side of the puck.
Another way the Penguins can be beaten is if they frustrate Crosby. Blue Jackets' forward Brandon Dubinsky did an excellent job of doing that in the first round and as a result, Crosby was clearly off his game and was also frustrated.
The Blueshirts need to find a way to do the same thing. With guys like Daniel Carcillo, Derek Dorsett, Dominic Moore, and Brian Boyle, the Rangers have several options they can use to both shadow Crosby and make life extremely difficult for him.
Lastly, the Rangers can beat the Penguins by using a similar type of playing style that the Penguins use. This Rangers' hockey club has a lot of speed, throws a lot of pucks on net, generates a lot of scoring chances and plays an up-tempo kind of hockey game.
While the Rangers' first round opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers, did not see that style often, when the Rangers did play that way, it was extremely difficult on the Flyers. It was in this style of play where the Rangers overwhelmed the Flyers in their own zone and were all around the net looking to put the puck past Flyers' goaltender Steve Mason.
The Penguins may have the better roster and be favored to win this series, but the Rangers need to know that the Penguins can be beaten and all they need to do is all of the above-mentioned things to give themselves a chance to make it happen.