Thursday, April 24, 2008

Series Preview: Pittsburgh v. New York

Here's a quick look at the Penguins next playoff opponent, one they know quite well, the New York Rangers.

Playoff leading scorer: Jaromir Jagr (5 games, 2 goals, 6 assists, +3)

Opponent they made look the worst: It's tempting to say Martin Brodeur, if only because the biggest asshole in the NHL Sean Avery got under his skin so effectively and threw him off his game. But we're going to go with Paul Martin, who got burnt for a -8 +/- rating in the five games.

Interesting stat: The Rangers scored 18 goals in five games (3.80 a game) against Brodeur and the defensive-minded Devils. 11 different Rangers tallied at least one goal, while five Blueshirts had multi-goal series.

Between the circles: Noted playoff warrior and Mr. Clutch Chris Drury only won 39.4% of his draws. Brandon Dubinsky and Scott Gomez took most the other faceoffs and were at or above 50%.

What the media will tell you the key matchup is: Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Henrik Lundqvist

What the real key matchup is: How New York's young defensemen--particularly Marc Staal (21) and Dan Girardi (23) matchup against the depth of scoring forwards that Pittsburgh will try to matchup against them.

Girardi and Staal were credited with 25 and 17 hits in those first five games, pretty impressive numbers. It remains to be seen if they were inflated numbers or legit hits.

TST Prediction: Pens in 6

The Rangers will be a stiff challenge. They've got a lot of great playoff players (Drury, Shanahan and, yes, Jagr) to go with some talented youth (Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, etc) up front. Defensively you'd think they wouldn't be as good as they are but it's a team commitment (and a great goalie) that makes them solid.

Still, the Penguins can counter that with speed and skill that we believe just over-matches the Blueshirts. The likes of Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, Sykora, etc. will eventual convert on the numerous chances they generate. The defense will quietly do their job and Fleury will continue to play excellent hockey. We give New York two games because we respect the talent of a guy like Jagr or Drury who can steal a close game by themselves with a late goal.

But in the end, the Penguins are marching on.

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