The New York Rangers have one day to prepare for the Pittsburgh Penguins after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers did well to limit Philly’s best player in Claude Giroux throughout the series, and they must do the same against Pittsburgh’s best player, Sidney Crosby.
Crosby went without a goal throughout the Pens’ first-round series, contributing six assists in six games. The Rangers need to keep Crosby out of the scoring column at all costs. Why is it so imperative you might ask? It’s simple; the Penguins almost never lose when their captain lights the lamp. During the regular season when Crosby scored at least one goal, the Pens’ record was a spectacular 25-2-3. That’s good for an 83 percent chance of winning when he scores. It’s hard to overcompensate on Crosby because Pittsburgh has so many other skilled players, but the offense certainly flows through Crosby and they need to make him uncomfortable.
Crosby tallied one goal and five assists against New York in four regular season contests. It will be up to the same group of Rangers who stifled Giroux in the first round to step up against Pittsburgh’s captain. It starts with Dominic Moore and Derick Brassard, the two centers who matched up against Giroux the most. Moore has been a solid defensive forward throughout his career, and Brassard’s line is used to being matched up against the opposition’s first line. Playing well head-to-head against Giroux has to elevate Brassard and Moore’s confidence going into round two.
Next comes the key defensemen against Crosby, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonaugh. The Rangers’ top defensive pair gets the most ice time and is always matched up against the opposition’s most skilled players. Girardi’s coming off a very strong first round, especially considering his partner McDonaugh was still feeling the effects of an injury he suffered in the regular season. Girardi was the Rangers’ best defenseman from a defensive standpoint in round one, and he needs to play at the same level moving forward.
Of course, stopping the guy who’s favored to win the Hart Trophy this season won’t be easy. It seems that even when Crosby is off his game, he’s still able to put up points and help his team. Crosby only has two goals in his last 16 games, and the Rangers need to keep it that way in order to be successful. Crosby is far from the only scoring threat on a Pittsburgh team littered with talent, but the top concern for New York still has to No. 87.