Pens-Rangers in Review
By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)
Here’s a game-by-game recap of my thoughts posts vs. the Rangers, with a series preview at the end.
Game 16: Rangers win 5-1
The first matchup caught the Pens by surprise. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Goals: Letang (PP)
Brandon Sutter – Played well on the PK and drew a penalty.
Evgeni Malkin – Drew a penalty and assisted on a goal, but was at fault for a goal and had offensive zone giveaway issues.
Paul Martin – Had a bad start with three giveaways but steadied and ended up with a strong PK game.
Olli Maatta – The Rangers made a concerted effort on hitting Maatta frequently and he lost numerous puck battles in the defensive zone.
Robert Bortuzzo – Lost several puck battles and had bad crease coverage, causing him to be at fault for two goals against.
Goaltending – Lundqvist won the goaltending battle as Fleury allowed a shaky first goal and then had no defensive help on the rest.
Turnovers – The Penguins forced too many passes into the Rangers defense and lost a majority of the puck battles.
Game 36: Pens win 4-3 (SO)
Goals: Kunitz (PP), Dupuis, Sutter
Sutter’s strong first round should carry perfectly against the Rangers. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Brandon Sutter – Scored a goal and forced three turnovers in the offensive zone.
Chris Kunitz – Recorded two points (1g, 1a) on seven shots, though he did take a goalie interference penalty.
Sidney Crosby – Had two assists and drew a penalty, but forced offensive zone passes too much, which resulted in four turnovers.
Olli Maatta – Played 28:06 and started the game strong, but wore down in the third period as he telegraphed passes in the defensive zone.
Game 43: Pens win 5-2
Goals: Kunitz (PP), Jokinen, Jokinen, Crosby, Kunitz
Sidney Crosby – Had three points (1g, 2a) and drew a penalty, though he did get into a bit of a wrestling match with McDonagh at the end.
Chris Kunitz – Had three points (2g, 1a) and was great around the crease area, putting himself in place for two Crosby passes and also forcing a turnover for Crosby’s goal.
James Neal – Played on the first line and helped out on two goals, but most importantly played strong defense on the top line.
Jussi Jokinen – Scored two goals (both from Gibbons) and drew a penalty, but was at fault for a goal against because he didn’t play until the whistle.
Olli Maatta – Had a slow start with three turnovers but steadied himself as the game went on.
Tanner Glass – Struggled to clear the puck several times, leading to a goal against.
Bylsma’s Work – Did a masterful job of adjusting the lines to get the most out of Neal, Gibbons, and Jokinen.
Dangerous Shots – Pens scored all five of their goals around the crease/slot area and kept almost all of their shots-against to the points.
Rangers out-shot the Pens 35-28 but most of their shots came from the outside…notice where the Pens scored from… pic.twitter.com/jy5bqdeMpF — Rich Miller (@pensbender) January 4, 2014
Game 58: Rangers win 4-3 (SO)
Goals: Maatta (PP), Malkin (PP), Neal
Evgeni Malkin – Scored a goal, helped on another one, and had three takeaways/no giveaways.
Matt Niskanen – Helped out on two goals, forced two turnovers, broke up three passes, and drew a tripping penalty.
Olli Maatta – Had two points (1g, 1a) and drew a penalty, but struggled at times with crease coverage in front of Fleury.
James Neal – Had two points (1g, 1a) but also took two penalties (slashing, diving).
Sidney Crosby – Helped out on two goals, but had three turnovers and couldn’t solve Lundqvist on six shots.
Brooks Orpik – Took two penalties around the crease and had three giveaways as the Rangers dominated him deep in the defensive zone.
Rob Scuderi – Had two failed clears, two defensive zone turnovers, and kept getting caught flat-footed as the Rangers put pressure on deep in the zone.
The Penguins can’t afford to lose battles in front moving forward. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)
The Penguins had all four of their matchups against the Rangers before the Olympic break and before the Martin St. Louis trade. It’s safe to say the Rangers are better now.
The Rangers started the season series by attacking Olli Maatta hard and switched gears to attacking the defensive defensemen (Scuderi/Orpik) at the end. That will probably continue based on last series.
Each team had an easy win and a shootout win.
The Penguins scored 5 of their 12 goals on the powerplay.
Sidney Crosby and Ryan McDonagh did not get along during the regular season; watch for some frustration there.
The biggest issue the Pens had was forcing passes into the Rangers defense.
As for the Good/Noteworthy/Bad, Brandon Sutter and Chris Kunitz both had a strong season series. Sidney Crosby was decent. Olli Maatta struggled through much of it.
My three keys to this series:
Getting traffic in front of the goalies. The Penguins scored a majority of their goals within two feet of Lundqvist’s crease. Meanwhile, the Penguins have shown a complete inability to defend the crease, especially on the PK.
Speaking of, which penalty kill shows up: the Penguins were dismal on the PK with a 74.1% success rate in the first round. The Rangers were even worse at 71.4%. (Penguins powerplay – 20.7%, Rangers powerplay – 10.3%). The Penguins depended on special teams more than most in the regular season and they likely can’t afford to keep running out a dismal PK.
Sidney Crosby vs. Rick Nash. Crosby was missing shots left and right throughout the first round, but he still managed to put up six assists and still contributed to some wins. Meanwhile, Nash (overly critiqued if you ask me) had 4 assists to go with 30 shots and 0 goals. He led the league in shots without a goal. Crosby was second (19 shots, 0 goals). Which of these players will find the back of the net first and the most often? It’s just a matter of time for both.
I had the Rangers beating the Penguins on their way to the Stanley Cup Final in my original bracket. I don’t think the Penguins have learned enough lessons yet to change my mind. I like New York’s defense better and how they protect Lundqvist much better than how the Penguins protect Fleury.
Rangers in 6. (and I hope I’m wrong)