Rangers vs Penguins: Staying focused and within structure is key to keep momentum going

kaapo kakko
Apr 6, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Kaapo Kakko #24 of the New York Rangers celebrates his powerplay goal at 6:10 of the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on April 06, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers vs Penguins: The Blueshirts have been playing better and more consistent hockey of late. They are riding a four game point streak (3-0-1) and have gained at least a point in 10 of their last 13 contests (8-3-2).

Tonight will mark their final meeting of the season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers won the last game against them 8-4 on Tuesday, but can’t afford to get comfortable. This Penguins team will come into tonight hungry and the Rangers must be ready for them.

Rangers: 18-15-5 (41 pts)
Penguins: 24-13-2 (50 pts)

(7:00 p.m. ET – TV: MSG Network, Radio: ESPN 98.7 FM)

Rangers positive takeaways from Tuesday night

The Rangers came out with energy and a sense of urgency on Tuesday. This was a big change from their previous game against the Sabres to which they brought no jump. They got off to a quick start, scoring three goals in the first half of the first period. Colin Blackwell had the first at just 1:35 in. The Rangers started the game with an aggressive forecheck and good speed that kept the Penguins in the defensive zone. However, the Penguins are a strong come-from-behind team. They were eventually able to get into the offensive zone and overall outshot the Rangers 45-25 in the contest. The Rangers need to tighten up in the d-zone tonight.

The Blueshirts power play overall has not been stellar this season. They currently rank 19th in the NHL at 19.7%. However, they were 3-3 against the Penguins on Tuesday. They have been less stationary lately and it’s starting to result in goals. The Rangers have been moving more but also need to shoot more. This team has had a tendency to try to look for the perfect play and they end up passing too much. Now it seems they are starting to recognize this.

artemi panarin
Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Fox continued his point streak on Tuesday with a goal and two assists. His streak has now reached 11 games and he has 21 points during the stretch. In addition to his offensive production, Fox continues to be excellent in the defensive zone. His is in position the vast majority of the time and his chemistry with Ryan Lindgren has elevated both their games. Fox is currently getting attention in the Norris Trophy conversation. If he can continue his exceptional play on both sides of the puck, he could have a real chance at winning.

Igor Shesterkin played very well on Tuesday night, especially considering the Rangers defense was rather porous at times. He made 41 saves on 45 shots for a .911 save percentage. While there was some question earlier in the season as to whether Shesterkin could handle being the number one goaltender, he has emerged as the obvious choice.

If Shesterkin gets the not as expected; he will take his 2-1-1 career record against Pittsburgh into the matchup.

What the Rangers must do tonight for success

The first thing the Rangers have to keep in mind is that the Penguins will bring more intensity to the game tonight. The Rangers have to get out to another quick start to gain momentum. Then they must carry that momentum through the game and play a full 60 minutes. They started to sit back after scoring three quickly on Tuesday. It’s okay to take some of the pressure off so as to not get caught tired in the O-zone and wind up with an odd man rush going the other way. However, they can’t afford to get lazy against a quick-strike team like the Penguins.

Secondly, the Rangers can’t let their defensive structure falter. They gave up 45 shots on goal last game which is not sustainable for multiple games in a row. There were some holes on Tuesday that forced Shesterkin to make really tough saves. If the Rangers can minimize that, they will be better off. Shesterkin is more than reliable in net, but it’s still not ideal to be giving up 45 shots, quite a few of which present quality scoring chances.

Note: All stats come from hockeyreference.com and nhl.com

Rangers Pre Game Notes

  • All-Time vs Penguins: 132-116-23-16 (74-54-9-8 at home; 58-62-14-8 on the road)
  • The Blueshirts have tallied at least one power play goal in six of the last eight games (11-for-28; 39.3%) and in eight of the last 11 games (13-for-38; 34.2%).
  • The Rangers have killed off 85 of their opponents’ 97 power play opportunities over the last 32 games (87.6%) and have held their opponents to only 124 shots on goal during their opponents’ 97 power play opportunities.
  • New York ranks fifth in the NHL in penalty kill efficiency this season (84.6%).
  • New York Rangers – 11 goals away from 20,000 in franchise history!

Latest NHL Rumors

Mike Hoffman appears to be the next scorer on the move. Check out the latest rumors here.

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