May 2, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Fans enter the gates as the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Rangers in game one of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Penguins Look to Avoid 0-2 Hole Against Rangers

The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to avoid the undesireable task of climbing out of an 0-2 series hole Sunday night in Pittsburgh as they look to even things up against the New York Rangers.  The Rangers will try to steal another game coming on the heels of Friday night’s dramatic victory.  Derrick Brassard tallied the winner early in overtime (or was it Benoit Pouliot) as Marc-Andre Fleury flopped around hopelessly in net.

It’s too early to call this a “must-win”, but teams going down 0-2 have only come back to win the series about 12% of the time.  Couple that with the task of having to travel to Madison Square Garden, one of the league’s loudest ar…(okay, I couldn’t say that with a straight face), and the Penguins should be a desperate bunch Sunday night.

The mustard-yellow crowd at the Consol Energy Center should be in a frenzy early on as they try to carry the home town team to victory.  Don’t expect the Rangers to be rattled though as they posted the best road record of any Eastern Conference team this season.

Sooner or later the safe money is on Sidney Crosby actually scoring a goal.  He had several chances Friday night in game 1 but still finished the game with no points and a minus three rating.  If the team struggles again early the Pittsburgh captain may start to hear boos similar to what happened against Columbus.  Of course all Crosby has ever done for the organization is help it win a Stanley Cup, win a Hart Trophy (with number two coming in June), make a handful of all-star teams, Art Ross Trophies, be the face of the franchise and save the team in Pittsburgh.  But what have you done for me recently?

The Rangers are dealing with their own star’s struggles putting the puck in net as Rick Nash has 2 playoff goals in 24 career playoff games, only one of those coming with the Rangers.  The positive is that with a goal tonight Nash would see his playoff career goal production skyrocket by 33% (I’m a “glass half-full” kinda guy).  Of course the Rangers aren’t paying “Big-Game” Nash $7,800,000 a year to ride shotgun to Dom Moore and Daniel Carcillo’s offensive prowess.

Both teams are looking to tally its first power play goals of the series.  The Rangers have gone 0 for the last 2 weeks on the power play and the best part of their power play is that no one has gotten hurt.  The Penguins couldn’t get one past Henrik Lundqvist on the power play in game 1 but were able to build momentum off them.  The Rangers are playing with fire if they continue to waste chances with the man-advantage and almost paid for it in their round 1 series against the Flyers.

The Rangers will continue to rely on its stalwart blue-line to keep Pittsburgh’s big guns in check.  Despite a shaky playoffs so far from Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers’ depth led by veteran Marc Staal were able to hold the Penguins to its lowest goal output of the playoffs so far.  Staal and Anton Stralman have continued to impress and give the Rangers two reliable pairings to match up against the Penguins’ offensive stars.

A game preview wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t give the obligatory mention of Fleury and his play in net.  At this point there’s no point even mentioning that Fleury needs to be better.  We all know that.  But we shouldn’t expect anything different.  He’ll let in 3 or 4 goals and at least 2 of those will leave everyone shaking their heads.  In all my years of watching hockey I have never seen a goalie so uncomfortable in net at playoff time…scratch that.  Other than Ron Hextall in the 1994 playoffs, I have never seen a goalie so uncomfortable in net.

So who wins?  The Rangers have not won a playoff game in their last 12 attempts while leading a series.  At some point that figures to end.  However, not tonight. Despite everything about the general awfulness of Fleury’s play, the Penguins are the more desperate team.  Expect the Penguins to come out flying in search for the opening goal to keep the home-crowd energized.  Lundqvist will keep the Rangers in it early but the Penguins’ offensive assault will be too much.  Crosby will finally get in the goal-scorers’ column and despite a late scare, the Penguins hold on for a 5-3 victory and even things up before heading to MSG for game 3 Monday night.

But if the Rangers can pot an early one and the Penguins start gripping those sticks tight…

Tags: New York Rangers Pittsburgh Penguins Rick Nash Sidney Crosby

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