I did a series preview capsule for the paper, but I’m not sure if it’s online, so you can find it below.
Also, here’s Carpie on “the three previous clashes between the Rangers and Pens in the postseason”:http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080425/COLUMNIST01/804250415/1046/sports0107. Any column that mentions Bob Froese is worthwhile in my book.
I’m on my way to Pittsburgh this a.m. More later from the Steel City:
Eastern Conference semifinals
No. 2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Rangers
Oct. 23 Penguins 1, Rangers 0
Nov. 8 Rangers 4, Penguins 2
Nov. 17 Rangers 4, Penguins 3 (OT)
Dec. 18 Rangers 4, Penguins 0
Jan. 14 Penguins 4, Rangers 1
March 18 Rangers 5, Penguins 2
March 30 Penguins 3, Rangers 1
March 31 Rangers 2, Penguins 1 (OT)
Forwards: The Penguins are the â€œitâ€ team of the NHL in large part because of their collection of forwards. It starts with Sidney Crosby, the NHLâ€™s reigning MVP who finished with 72 points despite missing 29 games with an ankle injury. But it continues with Evgeni Malkin, who had a breakout year in Crosbyâ€™s absence, and Marian Hossa, the dangerous wing who was acquired at the trade deadline from Atlanta.
The Rangers, meanwhile, have produced most of their offense by committee. While Jaromir Jagr has emerged from a mid-season scoring slump to lead the Rangers at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, more encouraging is that the team is getting scoring from three different lines.
Defense: The Rangersâ€™ backline has been their relative weak point for several seasons, but it is deeper than itâ€™s been. Rookie Marc Staal and veteran Michal Rozsival comprise a legitimate first pair, while Christian Backman, acquired from St. Louis at the trade deadline, has provided a surprising boost to the power play.
The Penguins defense is on the surface more dynamic. Sergei Gonchar is a formidable power play quarterback, while the imposing Hal Gill has been employed both in Toronto and in Pittsburgh to shut down Jagr. In Brooks Orpik Pittsburgh has another defenseman with big-hit capability.
Goaltender: The Penguinsâ€™ Marc-Andre Fleury is a former No. 1 overall pick, but had surrendered the stage to back-up Ty Conklin when he went down with a high ankle sprain during the season. Fleury has since returned and was impressive down the stretch and in the first round against Ottawa.
But if the Rangers have the edge in this series, it is because of Henrik Lundqvist, who endured a trying middle part of the season, but played well enough over the seasonâ€™s second half to earn his third straight Vezina Trophy nomination.
Outlook: Two very close games between these two teams in the final days of the regular season might be the best preview of what to expect in this series. For the Penguins, the x factor is Fleury, who has been good of late but has been vulnerable over the course of his short career. For the Rangers, the premium will be on limiting turnovers in the neutral zone and staying out of the penalty box. Lundqvist will have to be good regardless, but he canâ€™t be exposed too often against the Penguinsâ€™ potent attack.
Should the Rangers manage the puck intelligently, the team could be headed back to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 11 years.