The Rangers took Game One on Friday night in dramatic fashion, scoring twice in overtime for the 3-2 win. With Game Two coming tonight, the first of a back-to-back and the fourth of a four-in-five for the Rangers, that Game One victory was critical. The only way the Rangers stood a chance in this series was to –at the very least– get the split in Pittsburgh. Naturally, winning tonight and coming home with a 2-0 would be ideal. But the Penguins won’t play the same type of game they played on Friday night.
There were too many thoughts I had following Game One, so it only made sense to do a brain dump in a musings format.
- The Rangers scored two goals because the Penguins didn’t cover the slot. The Brad Richards goal was the direct result of Matt Niskanen coming over to help Olli Maata instead of sticking Richards in the slot. The overtime winner came from Sidney Crosby deserting the slot to get to Benoit Pouliot, who intercepted Rob Scuderi’s pass behind the net. Regardless, the Penguins won’t make those mistakes again.
- If the Pens continue to make those mistakes, and they continue to fall victim to the forecheck of the Rangers, this will be a short series. This isn’t the 2011-2012 team that forechecked hard, but couldn’t bury golden chances. This team has that forecheck and the skill to bury the opportunities.
- As for the Rangers, they were victimized twice by the Pens hitting the trailer at the blue line. That should look familiar, as the Rangers used to generate offense like that under John Tortorella. However, the Rangers need to adjust and find a way to prevent that pass. A few simple defensive adjustments, such as ensuring each forward sticks their man in the defensive zone, and the Rangers may find themselves forcing the Penguins into turnovers in a high risk area. Break up the pass to the trailer, and it leads to odd-man rushes.
- Long story short: The coaches that make these adjustments first will find themselves with an advantage tonight.
- As for Chris Kreider: It’s amazing how his absence has created a hole in the lineup. We wouldn’t be having this juggling of Jesper Fast, Dan Carcillo, and J.T. Miller if Kreider were healthy. They’ve survived, and Alain Vigneault has made some shrewd coaching moves to get the most out of his subs. But it was Carcillo who missed his assignment on James Neal that led to the tying goal on Friday. They’ve survived, but how long will that magic last?
- On the defensive end: We saw how Dan Bylsma wants to match his forwards up against the Rangers. He had Crosby out there against the Marc Staal/Anton Stralman pairing. He had Evgeni Malkin out there against the Ryan McDonagh/Dan Girardi pairing (per Shift Chart) at even strength. As for John Moore/Kevin Klein, they got the Brandon Sutter line. I wonder how long until Bylsma tries to get Crosby or Malkin out there against Moore/Klein.
That’s what I saw in Game One, and I don’t expect it to remain the same in Game Two. This is a big game for both teams. Could you imagine the frenzy that will be MSG if the Rangers come back with a 2-0 lead?