The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers kick off their opening round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight at 7pm in Madison Square Garden in a Metro Division showdown.
Game 1: Tuesday 5/3 @Rangers – 7pm
Game 2: Thursday 5/5 @Rangers – 7pm
Game 3: Saturday 5/7 @Penguins – 7pm
Game 4: Monday 5/9 @Penguins – 7pm
Game 5: Wednesday 5/11 @Rangers – TBA
Game 6: Friday 5/13 @Penguins – TBA
Game 7: Sunday 5/15 @Rangers – TBA
Rangers: 52-24-6, 110 points
Penguins: 46-25-11, 103 points
Rangers won regular season series 3-1
Why the Rangers can win
The Rangers have successfully and quickly rebuilt a playoff contender around Chris Kreider who enjoyed a career high 52 goals this season. They are also seeing stellar play from goalie Igor Shestyorkin, a favorite to win the Vezina Trophy this year. They also took 3 games from the Penguins in a 2-week span in late March/early April. But the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a different beast. For the Rangers to win, they will have to get Kreider opportunities on net and see continued play from Shestyorkin. The Rangers also finished fourth on the power play with a 25.2 % success rate.
Why the Penguins can win
What matches up well against the 4th most successful power play in the league? How about the 3rd best penalty kill? The Penguins give up the least amount of power play goals in the league in 2021/22. The Penguins are middle of the road when it comes to offensive efficiency. Isn’t that something, the former run-and-gun Penguins are a more defensive team. Go figure. But Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Evgeni Malkin are all still on the ice, so anything can happen.
The X factor in this defensive series is going to be goaltending. Something no Penguins’ fan wants to hear. Last year, Tristan Jarrys shakiness between the pipes cost the Penguins a 2-1 series lead and the 3rd straight 1st round playoff exit. This year, a rebounded and much improved Jarry will miss at least the first 2 games of the series with a lower body injury. That puts backup Casey DeSmith in net and at a decided disadvantage for the Penguins. DeSmith suffered early in the season. Posting a 5-3-2 record, with a 3.08 GAA and .899 save percentage. The latter half saw those numbers move to a 6-3-3 record, 2.53 GAA, and .927 save percentage. The Pens are going to need 2nd half DeSmith to show up in this series and not 1st half DeSmith. That may well make or break the series right there.
The Rangers will enjoy home ice advantage in a loud arena with an obnoxious goal song. They also have enjoyed a 3-1 record over the Penguins. As a Pens’ fan, there is a bright side. I’d rather lose 3 in March with time to adjust then drop 3 in the playoffs and be put on thin ice (yup, pun intended). I also love starting a series on the road with an early chance to break serve. Sidney Crosby also loves playing at MSG, the boos motivate him, and he has also shown his respect for the “hey, I’m walking here” brand of New York trash talk.
I won’t say the Pens are going to lose this series, marking their 4th straight post season exit. But they do have an uphill battle. If they are going to win this series, it will be done defensively in 7 games. My prediction for Game 1, however? An OT loss. They’ll rebound in game 2, but the Penguins and my blood pressure levels are no friends of each other.
- / 11 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.