2011-2012 Records: Penguins (51-25-6), Rangers (51-24-7)
Preview: The Penguins sure were busy this offseason. The Pens sent Jordan Staal packing in exchange for Brandon Sutter and others, although Sutter is the only player from the trade on the roster. Gone also is Zbynek Michalek, sent to Phoenix for prospects. Those are two major players exiting, and while Sutter makes the loss of Staal manageable, the loss of Michalek leaves the Pens a little thin on the blue line.
When the teams line up tonight, you’re going to see a lot of the Rangers in the Penguins in terms of style of play. The Penguins play a 2-1-2 forecheck –like the Rangers– that pressures the puck carriers in their own zone and creates turnovers. The constant pressure creates opportunities for the two best offensive players in the game: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The only place where the Pens really differ from the Rangers is in the defensive zone. The Rangers play a collapsing style, which aims to prevent shots from high quality scoring areas. The Penguins attack the point men, which is used to create turnovers and odd man rushes.
To win, the Rangers are going to need to exploit the Penguins relatively thin defense. Much like the Rangers, the Pens have a solid top four, but their bottom pairing leaves a lot to be desired. They will also need to keep their heads on a swivel, as Crosby and Malkin will make the Rangers pay for blown assignments.
Crazy Thought: They aren’t rusty.
Opposition Blog: The Pens Blog