Protect the King: Penguins will look to continue getting in Lundqvist’s crease
Rewind the clock back to last year’s playoffs series that went the distance, Crosby scored once and Maklin 3 times. The two best players on the Penguins totaled 4 goals in 7 games. Bottom line, the Rangers know how to defend them and have the personnel to do it.
Flash forward to this rematch and the Penguins are missing some very key players. Forward, Pascal Dupuis is out for the season due to blood clots and his loss means a lot of the Pittsburgh’s heart and soul are gone too. Defenseman, Olli Maatta is gone for the series due to shoulder surgery and Kris Letang will likely not play thanks to concussion symptoms. Even defenseman, Christian Ehrhoff remains a question mark in this series with an undisclosed injury.
The only goal the Penguins did score was thanks to when Maxim Lapierre pushed Dan Boyle on top of Lundqvist allowing Blake Comeau an easy tally. It’s a tactic that the Penguins will certainly use more tonight in game two and likely the remainder of this series. Alain Vigneault is aware of it and he wants the refs to pay attention.
[su_quote cite=”NY POST” url=”https://nypost.com/2015/04/18/vigneault-calls-out-refs-says-pens-disturbing-lundqvist/”]“Hank plays in the blue paint,” Vigneault said, referring to how Lundqvist plays deep in his net and almost always in the crease. “When he gets hit, the blue paint is the goaltender, because there’s a willingness [from the Penguins] to go there and disturb. There’s a lot of stuff from certain of their players that we knew was going to happen after the whistle. We hope that the referees are going to see it and call it, and we’re going to play whistle-to-whistle and be a very disciplined team.”[/su_quote]
AV is being politically correct by not naming players like Lapierre, Steve Downie and Chris Kunitz to name a few. Matter of fact it was Kunitz that was called for goaltender interference in the first period of game one.
Penguins coach Mike Johnston noted that the officials made it clear that both teams were spoken to on how they would call it.
[su_quote cite=”Post-Gazette” url=”https://blogs.post-gazette.com/sports/2013-06-20-18-51-15/empty-netters/44073-vigneault-unhappy-with-penguins-crashing-lundqvist-04-17-15″]They’ve made it clear what they’re going to call for this playoff series. The standard are very similar to the [regular season] but they’re going to hold those standards strict. And you saw right away with the goaltenders, they’re going to protect the goaltenders. The call on Kunitz was kind of a gray area one but still, that’s what they’re going to call. They’ve made it clear they’re going to call that. So the standard has been set and our players have to make sure they adjust to that and still maintain that compete.”[/su_quote]
Regardless, it doesn’t appear that it will deter his players from walking that fine line and getting to Henrik Lundqvist. That means it will fall on the Rangers defense to step up and play it tough on the Penguins hooligans.
[su_quote cite=”Post-Gazette” url=”https://blogs.post-gazette.com/sports/2013-06-20-18-51-15/empty-netters/44073-vigneault-unhappy-with-penguins-crashing-lundqvist-04-17-15″]”They can do the best job they can and they are trying to but at some point, it’s only so much a guy can do when [an opponent] is skating through the blue. So that’s when the referees got to to their job.”[/su_quote]
So expect the Penguins to get in the King’s court tonight and bump him. In return, you can expect the Rangers defense to get fired up and start popping some white helmets off when they get to close to Henrik.
Heading into tonight, that and how the referees handle it will be an intriguing subplot. How far the Penguins go to get to Lundqvist will be indicative of just how desperate they are to compete against a far more superior Rangers squad.