Let’s take a look at some of the obstacles that the Rangers will need to overcome if they want to win this series.
Right off the bat, here is a small recap of the regular season series between the two teams.
Things went downhill pretty quickly for the Rangers following their first victory over the Pens. It is important to note that the Rangers significantly closed the gap not only in the overall score, but also in shots as the series progressed.
While some will pull out their stat sheets to debate the importance of Corsi stats, which have their place, I always look to overall shots.
The Rangers were out shot in every game except one. Ironically enough, that was also the game in which the Blueshirts lost by the biggest margin.
While some had hoped that Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury might miss some first round games after sustaining a concussion, it’s looking like he will be ready to go Wednesday.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 11, 2016
Those shot statistics are important, especially against a goalie that may not be 100% when he returns.
If the current trend continues and the Rangers are not able to find ways to put more shots on net, it will obviously hurt them in this series.
A lot has been made about the recent renaissance that Sidney Crosby is experiencing, but I’d be more worried about the Penguin’s second line:
Carl Hagelin-Nick Bonino-Phil Kessel
This line is fast and deadly. Their strategy centers around Hagelin and Bonino feeding the puck to Kessel, who is one of the more accurate shooters in the league.
While Kessel is usually the one looking to finish the plays, Hagelin’s speed and forechecking ability have proved to be invaluable.
Irony isn’t always kind.
As far as Evgeni Malkin is concerned, his status is up in the air for Wednesday.
Evgeni Malkin is on the ice. Working on shooting the puck. And he looks pretty good.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) April 11, 2016
The most obvious negative surrounding this series is the loss of Rangers’ captain, Ryan McDonagh.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 11, 2016
Even if McDonagh does return, the speed and intensity that is playoff hockey is often too great for returning players to catch up with.
Rookies Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath will need step up.