New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello
Photo by Bergen Record

All bets are off whenever the New York Rangers play the Pittsburgh Penguins, and tonight will be no exception. Carl Hagelin is officially the enemy.

New York Rangers (30-18-5, 65 points, 2nd in NHL Metropolitan Division)
Pittsburgh Penguins (27-18-7, 61 points, 4th in NHL Metropolitan Division)
Tonight, 8:00 PM on NBCSN
CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA

By Chris Wengert

Carl Hagelin was easily a fan favorite when he was apart of the New York Rangers roster.

The fan base loved the “flow” and team chemistry that he brought to the team, not to mention his blistering speed which greatly helped the Rangers fore check.

The fan base also loved Carl Hagelin when his overtime goal defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs last year.

Irony is a funny thing.

But the good feelings are now gone because our formerly beloved Carl Hagelin is now a Pittsburgh Penguin.

Let that simmer for a second…feels dirty, doesn’t it?

The worst part of Haeglin wearing a Pittsburgh jersey is that he has helped their team immensely. Through 43 games with the Anaheim Ducks, Hagelin only tallied 12 points (4 goals/8 assists).

Hags has only played nine games with the Pens and is on track to double that production, having racked up six points (1 goal/5assists) already. His speed and grit has really improved Pittsburgh’s fore check which has sparked a previously anemic offense.

That’s OK though, because the New York Rangers have some tricks up their own sleeve.

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J.T. Miller has been a force to be reckoned with.

The most optimistic part of Miller’s production is that he is working hard for the goals, it’s not just puck luck. He shoots the puck when he see the opportunity, places those shots in the right place, and often shoots in traffic to screen the goalie.

Because of these attributes, Miller’s production will be sustainable moving forward. He will surely cool off at some point, but the overall production should continue.

Chris Kreider looks like a dog on a leash, just waiting to be released.

Kreider looks like the player we once knew, the player who would drive to the net at all costs, the player who would blow by defenders with his quickness. If I were a betting man, I would say that Kreider breaks out in the coming games.

While no one wishes for injuries, a lower-body injury to Evgeni Malkin will even the slate out a bit tonight:

Rick Nash looks to be closer to returning as well:

Rangers Keys To Victory

Establish The Fore Check

Tonight’s Eastern Quarter-Final rematch will be a great measuring stick for both teams. The Rangers and Penguins both boast speed and talent, but whichever team is able establish a fore check will have a big advantage.

And it is the fore check that will win this game for the Rangers.

The Blueshirts have been great at attacking the puck, cycling to the open forwards, and using their defense for outlet passes. This opens the shooting and passing lanes.

Slow Pittsburgh’s Breakout

Likewise, the Blueshirts will need to slow the Penguins on their breakout. Similar to the Rangers, the Pens are most effective when they use their speed through the neutral zone. Negating this transition game would be a huge positive for the Rangers.

Sidney Crosby will be much less effective when he isn’t allowed to use his speed when entering the Ranger’s zone.

NEXT: New York Mets: Former Pitcher John Franco Calls Out Hall Of Fame Voters

I've been a die hard Rangers and Giants fan for as long as I can remember. I enjoy sharing opinions, and hearing from fans that love their teams just as much as I do. Henrik Lundqvist makes all of us look like mere mortals. E-mail me at: