Struggles all around, Pens @ Rangers

I’ll tell you what people, it’s hard to keep being positive.  But, as a fan, don’t we all find ourselves pretty upbeat and excited on gamedays?

pit1nyr

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in New York tonight for a 7 p.m. start at Madison Square Garden, a place they have yet to win at all season.  It is the last visit to MSG during the regular season and, to beat the same old drum once again, it’s a must-win.

What will aide the Pens in their quest for an ever-so-elusive victory is the fact that New York is going through some struggles of their own.  The Rangers have led the Atlantic Division for most of the season but now find themselves in third place.  They have lost four of the last five games and can’t seem to find their scoring touch on the power play.  The penalty kill is also a huge issue.

In the last five games New York has provided itself with power play scoring to the tune of a 1-17 mark.  That matches up to their ability to shut down opposing power plays — a 14-20 rate.  Yes, that’s a 30% success rate for the opposition.  Um, Pens … the time is now.

Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cooke (24) is escorted to the penalty box after being called for goaltender interference during the third period of their 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in a hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cooke (24) is escorted to the penalty box after being called for goaltender interference during the third period of their 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in a hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Their penalty kill is tops in the league but is faltering.  The Pens must capitalize.  The reason the Rangers unit is suffering could be because they have been taking so many penalties.  In those last five games, New York is averaging four penalties a game.

The same old strategy applies.

The Penguins need to stay out of the box against this team.  I don’t care that they have been struggling on the pp.  Nikolai Zherdev and Markus Naslund can easily put the puck in the net if given the opportunity.

Since the Pens have started their 0-24 streak on the pp, teams are also averaging over five power plays against.  The penalty killing unit for the Pens has killed off just 81.25% of those.  So staying out the box is the No. 1 concern.

Then comes the power play.  The Pens have got to get it going.  We all know it, they know it … when’s it going to happen?

The last line of defense for the Rangers might be their best line of defense: Henrik Lundqvist.  ‘King Henrik’ has a 2.67 GAA and .908 SV% in 33 appearances.  He’s never an easy goaltender to go against and since the Pens have been making inferior goaltenders look like all stars lately, things could get ugly.  He has had to play well with a sub-par defensive corps in front of him.

With so many weapons, there’s no reason the Penguins can’t exploit New York’s weaknesses.  That is, if they play like the team we know they can be.

Advantages:

Forwards:  Penguins.  The Rangers have a few weapons but, as we have said so many times, it’s hard for anyone to match up with the big guns the Penguins have.  They big question is will those big guns play up to their potential?

Defense:  Even.  Neither team is very good defensively.  The Pens are young and inexperienced.  The Rangers give up just as many goal as they score.

Goaltending:  New York.  Neither Marc-Andre Fleury of Dany Sabourin has played too well lately.

Special Teams:  New York.  They get a big edge considering their penalty kill is No. 1 in the NHL.  However, it’s showing signs of weakness.

Prediction:

Is pains me to have to do this so much, but I can’t pick the Pens.  Not until they start stringing together quality performances with some resulting in wins.  The Rangers are struggling, yes.  I think that gives the Pens a golden opportunity.  However, they had chances to earn easy points against Toronto, Tampa Bay and Florida.  None of those ended well.  I think the Rangers will win but I also think the Pens will get a power play goal.  Final score:  5-3 Rangers.

Chris | PPT

“Avenge 6-4-08”

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