Archive for Playoffs
After dropping Game One, the Rangers are back at it in Pittsburgh with a need to even the series. Evgeni Malkin may be back (as of this writing nothing was official). If he is back, and he’s on the third line, where he was taking line rushes yesterday, then that is some scary depth for the Penguins. This is a team that made the Rangers eat their mistakes, and Malkin will only help that.
The Rangers are without Dan Girardi, so Dylan McIlrath will get his first taste of playoff hockey today. Call it harsh, but that is likely a net-win for the Rangers, as Girardi (and Staal) was downright awful in Game One. Regardless, the Rangers need to continue to pressure like they did in Game One –where they dominated the possession game– but limit the defensive zone mistakes. As we’ve been touting, possession is part of the process. DZ mistakes are the other part.
The Rangers dropped the first game of their opening round matchup with the Penguins on Wednesday night, 5-2. Patrick Hornqvist lead the way for the Penguins, with a hat trick, and the Rangers lost Henrik Lundqvist to a scary eye injury. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were basically traffic cones all evening and the Rangers were shut down by a third string goaltender. As you can imagine, I have some thoughts…
1. Where else to start but with Hank? Forget the fact that the Rangers realistic chances of winning this series were all but hinged on Hank playing at a Conn Smythe level. Let’s talk about the injury itself. I have had the misfortune of experiencing something fairly similar, so I feel I can lend some perspective. My experience involved the opposite end of the stick, but it still belonged to my defenseman and still slipped through the bars on the cat’s-eye. My defender backed into me and it seemed like slow motion that the butt-end of his stick just continued coming until I could feel it make contact with my eye.
Last night, Alain Vigneault got what he thought was his dream matchup. His two remaining –Ryan McDonagh is hurt– stud defensive defensemen out against one of the best players in the world in Sidney Crosby. Then the unthinkable happened, the perfect matchup exploded in his face, allowing three even strength goals.
Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were beyond ineffective last night, which is sad because they actually did a decent job in the possession department. It’s also sad because last night’s game was just a microcosm of their respective seasons. In fact, their seasons were summed up in one well timed picture from Josh.
Playoff hockey is back. The Rangers begin their quest for another run through the playoffs in Pittsburgh to take on the red-hot Penguins, who are finally getting healthy.
Marc-Andre Fleury is back. It appears Olli Maata is back as well. Evgeni Malkin is still hurt, but that was expected. His absence is notable, like Ryan McDonagh’s is for the Rangers.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, kids! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, it’s finally above freezing in the NY Metro area, and hockey is about to be on at all times. Really, what’s better?
Here on the blog, we’ve previewed each of the eight upcoming series, broken down by series and by each writer. Share yours in the comments and let us know how spot on / awful our predictions are.
– Obviously Sidney Crosby draws most of the attention whenever anyone talks about the Penguins, but I believe the most important player in this series is Kris Letang. He’s the straw that stirs the Penguins’ drink, so to speak, and has posted 48 points in 43 games since January 1 (13 goals, 35 assists) while being Pittsburgh’s best player in its own zone by a country mile. Letang is the guy that spurs the Penguins’ speed game, be it an outlet pass to Crosby or hitting Carl Hagelin in stride or with an alley-oop to gain possession in the attack zone. The Rangers have benefitted from some fortuitous timing in the past with Letang missing several key games with a slew of injuries, but he’s at the top of his game right now.
– Speaking of Hagelin, I’m absolutely terrified about the hockey karma of the guy that knocked out the Penguins last spring being on the other side of the ice this time around. You know he’s going to score a big goal in this series.
Over the past few days, we’ve spent a significant amount of time previewing the series between the Rangers and the Penguins, which kicks off tomorrow night. We’ve looked at systems, goalies, and the overall series preview. We dedicated an entire podcast to it. Suffice it to say, this matchup scares the bejesus out of most of us here.
The Rangers have a clear advantage in net and a slight (in my opinion) advantage at forward, especially with the Evgeni Malkin injury. However the Rangers fall woefully short where it matters the most: Overall process and showing improving play as the season progresses.
Leading up to the Rangers and Penguins first round match up on Wednesday evening, the boys from Pittsburgh find themselves in a strange situation. Their starting goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, practiced yesterday, but is unconfirmed to make it back in time for game 1. Their backup, and highly touted rookie, Matt Murray, is day-to-day after having his bell rung by Braden Schenn in game 81. He is also unconfirmed to be available for the start of the postseason. They have last year’s backup Jeff Zatkoff ready to go, and have called up (slightly less highly touted) rookie Tristan Jarry, just in case. Read More→
A few requests came in to do a BSB only bracket challenge, so I created one over at the bracket challenge website. You can access the league by clicking here, or by typing “BSB League” in the search field.
Personally, I always find these to be fun with fans of a specific team, because they always think their team is the best. While I can’t offer up anything concrete, the winner can certainly write a guest post bragging about how much they know the game and how the losers are peons incapable of knowing anything about hockey.
Have at it folks. Let me know in the comments who joined.
The table is set for another round of the Penguins and the Rangers, who seem to meet in the playoffs as often as the Caps and the Rangers. This time around, it will be old friend Mike Sullivan, who was an assistant with the Rangers during the John Tortorella days, behind the bench in Pittsburgh. The change in coach means a change in system from the last time they met in the first round (last year).
The biggest change for the Penguins is that they are run a more aggressive style of play compared to Mike Johnston last year. They are more like Dan Bylsma’s Penguins in this regard, even without half their roster, as Pat pointed out. But even without key players, the Penguins enter the playoffs red hot and have really adopted this new style of play effectively.