Normally when it comes to hockey I respect the teams that
the New York Rangers face but the Pittsburgh Penguins are not one of them. Over
the years they in my mind have led the league in dirty cheap shots that have
hurt other players and while most of them have been punished by the NHL there
remains one who is protected from punishment because he gets pushed as one of
the biggest faces in the NHL.
I am talking of course about Sidney Crosby who when he isn't
diving or sucker punching his opposition is whining to the refs about how
mistreated he is on the ice by that same opposition. Nothing is more
disappointing than to see a talented player having to resort to cheating which
when you strip everything away is what diving really is. If you can't trust
your talent to win for you then something is wrong.
I am not going to sit here and blow smoke about how the
Rangers should walk all over the Penguins because it is not true. The Rangers
must play at a higher level than they did against the Philadelphia Flyers or
this will be as Mike Milbury predicts a very short series.
I believe the Rangers can defeat the Penguins after watching
what the Columbus Bluejackets did against them. If Pittsburgh coach Dan Blysma
thinks that his team played their best 120 minutes in games 5 and 6 against the
Bluejackets then he is kidding himself. The Bluejackets ran out of time in game
6 otherwise they would have forced a game 7.
It starts with defense as the Rangers will need to pull out
their John Tortorella playbooks and continue to block shots and protect Henrik
Lundqvist. The Rangers don't want to get into a game of pond hockey with the
Penguins because their offense just isn't firing on all cylinders.
It will be interesting to see who draws Crosby as I think
the Rangers will use Dom Moore against him but I would like to see Dan Carcillo
with Moore and Derek Dorsett. I just don't think Brian Boyle's skating would
allow him to stay with any Crosby line especially if Evgeni Malkin is kept on
the Crosby line.
If Crosby is going to whine then put the Ranger pest on the
ice against him to make it worthwhile. Carcillo can get under Crosby’s skin and
off his game would be a win for the Rangers especially if Carcillo goads him
into responding. If Malkin is not on Crosby’s line then keep Boyle there.
The Rangers have to play with serious composure and
discipline as giving the Penguins power plays is inviting disaster. The Ranger
penalty kill in the Flyer series was 71.4% which is 15th out of the
teams that played in the first round.
While the Penguins wasn’t much better at 74% they are facing
a Ranger power play that was horrible scoring only 3 times on 29 attempts. But
there is a solution for the Ranger power play woes and it is the oldest mantra
in hockey “attack the net” whether you are camping bodies in Marc-Andre Fleury’s
crease or taking the puck to the net with bodies and out fighting the Penguins
for the pucks.
It is in this area where Rick Nash do the most damage as
almost every time he attacked the net the Rangers either scored or generated a “dangerous”
scoring chance. Fleury has been rattled in recent playoff series and the
Rangers if they attack can and will score on him.
But if the Rangers continue to play a perimeter game like
they have then they will turn Fleury into a stud goalie as if he can see the
puck then he can stop the puck. The Bluejackets were scoring from 10 feet in on
Fleury and they don’t have the firepower the Rangers do.
The Rangers have to play 60 minute games not 40 minute or 50
minute as start to finish they have to bring the effort against the Penguins.
They can’t expect Henrik Lundqvist to win 4 games by shutting the Penguins out
every night as that just won’t happen.
If anything the best way to help Henrik Lundqvist would be
to put 4-5 goals on Fleury because that will put all the pressure on Fleury
since everyone will be questioning whether or not Blysma should go with him or
play untested rookie Jeff Zatkoff. Or even better start the Thomas Vokoun rumors
up as it was Vokoun who replaced Fleury in the playoffs last year.
There is also an area that is much different for the Rangers
this time around and that is they are the younger team in this year’s matchup.
The Penguins will have 13 players on their roster who are 30 and older while
the Rangers will have just 5 so keep hitting the Penguins every chance you get.
This series is going to come down to which team dictates and
imposes its will on the other team the most. If the Rangers can play smart and
keep the Penguins in chess match games then the Rangers can and will win this
As for the series I have said since the beginning of the
playoffs that I only fear a Ranger/Boston Bruin matchup so I am going to say
the Rangers will give the home fans a chance to serenade Crosby into the
off-season in 6 games.