The Rangers are in Pittsburgh this afternoon to take on the hottest team not from Chicago. The Pens have won seven in a row, and have scored at least three goals a game in that run, averaging a whopping 4.7 goals per game. That’s just absurd, but also impossible to maintain long term. Other stats impossible to maintain: The Penguin players shooting percentage (Kunitz – 30%, Neal – 18%, Dupuis – 17%, Martin – 17%, Sutter – 16%). That just means they are due for a slump, and don’t expect it to happen today.
The Rangers are slumping, having lost two in a row and three of their last four. They had two “gimme” games against Buffalo and Winnipeg and came out flat in both games. Now they hit the red hot Penguins, and this game has disaster written all over it. Expect the Pens to use their 2-1-2 forecheck to pin the Rangers in their own zone, create turnovers, and capitalize. The Rangers will need to make good outlet passes to beat the pressure.
In the defensive zone, the Penguins play a strong side overload or a low zone collapse, depending on puck location. They use these strategies to overwhelm the offensive players along the boards and create turnovers. If this doesn’t work (i.e.: The puck gets to the weak side point man), then the Pens shift to the low zone collapse and block shots.
On special teams, the Pens run an umbrella powerplay. Their powerplay is absolutely lethal, converting at 24.1% efficiency (4th in the league). But that penalty kill is the polar opposite, killing off penalties at a paltry 78.8% rate (24th in the league). The Pens also run a diamond penalty kill. With that said, most penalty kills alter based on the powerplay they are facing.
For more on Tortorella’s systems read here.
2012-2013 Records: Penguins (20-8-0), Rangers (13-11-2)
Broadcast Info: MSG, 1pm
Torts post-game interview from Thursday: