Ranger Danger: How the Penguins have played the Rangers so far

Lundqvist is getting bumped (NYPOST Photo: Charles Wenzelberg)

Lundqvist is getting bumped (NYPOST Photo: Charles Wenzelberg)

The 2015 New York Rangers have a 2-1 lead in their best of 7 series with the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. However, this Penguins team isn’t the one many fans wanted the Rangers to face in the first round. This Penguins team is far from defeated and they can certainly send the Rangers home short of their Stanley Cup goal set in June when they lost game 5 against Los Angeles.

The Penguins are trying to slow the Rangers transition game.

This isn’t the Penguins team that went 4-9-1 in their last 15 regular season games. The Penguins are certainly short-handed on the back-end with injuries to four of their top 6 defenseman. However, the Rangers are a speed team and in the playoffs mistakes are few and far in between. So the Rangers, who got a large amount of their offense on the rush will have to find other ways to score goals.

Three games of the playoffs are now in the books but the Rangers have yet to look like the 113 point President’s Trophy winners. They’ve had trouble scoring at times and have not looked like the fastest of teams thus far.

Game 1 the Rangers came out strong and the Penguins accommodated them quite hospitably. The Rangers scored early with Derick Brassard ripping the puck through Marc-Andre Fleury :28 seconds into the game. From then on the Pens were there physically but very much absent between the ears all game.

The Rangers were not pleased with the way they played in-game two.

Lundqvist looking for the puck (Getty via NYR Twitter)

Lundqvist looking for the puck (Getty via NYR Twitter)

Game two the Penguins made an attempt at slowing down the Rangers breakouts by clogging up the neutral zone. They still made the knee jerk retaliatory plays that could have cost them but this time it was the Rangers that left their minds at home. They ran around in the defensive end like headless chickens and allowed the Pens to find rebounds. In slowing the Rangers through center ice, they forced them into mistakes and turnovers. This was a classic example of how the Rangers could end up home two months earlier than hoped.

Things are never easy in New York hockey are they? Game three was more of game one early but the two teams shut each other down for the first five minutes. The Rangers didn’t register a shot until Dan Girardi hit the net at 5:50 of the first period. The Penguins were held shotless until 15:21 when Nick Spalling took a shot from the red line. The Rangers broke the stalemate when Hagelin scored and Chris Kreider finished a pretty Marc Staal feed. The Rangers have won two games in this series 2-1 and lost game two 4-3. If they continue to have trouble scoring this series could be a long one.

During the regular season 1/3 of the Rangers shots came off the rush.

Ryan McDonagh scores on the PP in GM1 vs. Pit  (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Ryan McDonagh scores on the PP in GM1 vs. Pit (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Rangers score a lot of their goals with quick transition and speed through center ice. Time and space is not readily available in the playoffs and the Penguins have made a commitment to defense. That was evident when they added 2-way forwards Patric Hornqvist, Blake Comeau, Daniel Winnik, and Maxim Lapierre.

The Rangers will need to be careful through the neutral zone unlike the way they played in-game 2. They’ll have to figure out ways to beat the Penguins without much of their speed game that has done them so well this season.

They played well in-game 3 keeping the Penguins off the scoreboard for over 40 minutes but they still need Rick Nash to score some big goals for them. They can’t afford another long playoffs without their 40 goal scorer being a factor.

 The Rangers turned up the heat on the entire Penguins organization!

On a side note is the Penguins GM and the boneheaded tirade he made on Monday night.He took over the Penguins last summer after 20 years at the helm in Carolina. Jim Rutherford’s trade deadline move made with Anaheim sending Simone Depres to the Ducks for journeyman Ben Lovejoy was heavily scrutinized in the media. I bet Jim would like to have Depres back right about now.

Jim Rutherford let out his frustrations on a local reporter Monday night when he cursed out Pittsburgh columnist Rob Rossi. That might be indicative of the pulse of the entire Penguins team, but this morning Rossi spoke on NHL Radio and believes the club is fine. He attributed Rutherford’s tirade as a “last swipe” before possibly heading out the door.

Drama. That’s what the Stanley Cup playoffs are about, on the ice and off of it.