Pittsburgh Penguins Face Off Against the New York Rangers in Game 1


The day we’ve all been anxiously awaiting is here. The Pittsburgh Penguins will begin their quest for the Stanley Cup when the puck drops tonight at Madison Square Garden.

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There will be a lot of questions that finally get answered in game one tonight. How will the Pittsburgh Penguins young Defensemen hold-up against the powerful attack of the Rangers? Will Rick Nash snap out of his playoff slump and continue his regular season domination? Will Marc-Andre Fleury hold it together for the post-season?

The most important question, though, is how will the Pittsburgh Penguins respond to a horrendous final stretch of the regular season?

The Penguins held an optional skate this morning, but according to Mike Johnston the lineup is as follows.

Winnik – Crosby – Hornqvist
Kunitz – Malkin – Perron
Bennett – Sutter – Downie
Spaling – Lapierre – Comeau

Martin – Lovejoy
Scuderi – Cole
Dumoulin – Chorney

Ben Lovejoy and Rob Scuderi will continue to get a lot more minutes than they’re truly capable of playing. Defense is going to be the biggest issue until Christian Ehrhoff returns to lessen the burden on those guys. He is currently listed as day-to-day and could return for game two.

While Taylor Chorney was serviceable down the stretch for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Brian Dumoulin had looked less-than-impressive in his stints with the big club this season. Those two will prove to be a liability having to face one of the best offenses in the league. The other issue is that the Penguins will have to continue taxing their veterans, which will surely impact them as the series goes on. Again, this is a situation where Ehrhoff will help tremendously if he’s able to return.

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The Pittsburgh Penguins made a very smart front-office hire
The Pittsburgh Penguins made a very smart front-office hire /

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  • Players to Watch – Rangers
    Rick Nash – While his playoff performances in the past have been less than stellar, Nash is having a career year posting 42 goals and 69 points. I visited the task of shutting him down in an article found here, and it looks like the Penguins will most likely rely on Brandon Sutter and his comrades once again. As you’ll see in that article, that likely means bad news for the Pens.

    Kevin Hayes – What’s so dangerous about a 6’5 225lb. forward that has 45 points? Well, all of the above. It’s tough to imagine anyone on the Penguins roster than can matchup against him physically.  He could have a huge impact on this series.

    Players to Watch – Penguins
    Steve Downie – This one could go either way. Downie was quoted in saying that no one will take liberties on Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby as Mark Staal did last season. I’m looking for Downie to either make a huge impact on this series with an unexpected timely goal or two, or become a huge distraction. It’s on him to figure out which.

    Brandon Sutter – Yes, after all the criticism I normally have for Sutter, he is one of my players to watch. It’s simple; Sutter has proven that he can show up in big games just as he did in last year’s playoffs. He was by far the best forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins in many instances. Hopefully we’ll see a repeat.

    Keys to the Game
    There are two essential keys to tonight’s game, and the whole series. First, shoot, keep shooting, and shoot some more. The New York Rangers have been one of the worst shot suppression teams among post-season contenders.

    Secondly, while I mentioned Sutter’s ability to play well in big games, keep him away from Rick Nash. He has the most TOI against Nash this season among Penguin forwards, and Nash is winning that battle with three goals in 20:08 TOI (5v5).

    Of course, tonight is just the start of things, but a strong start is extremely important for a Pittsburgh Penguins roster that has struggled so badly through recent months. A quick lead on the Rangers could do wonders for this team. Or, they could forfeit that lead in the third. We’ll find out tonight!