It appeared the New York Rangers were heading for the exit door of the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Playoffs after falling behind three games to one against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, emotional wins for New York in Games 5 and 6 have revitalized a team that looks poised to finish off the Pens in Game 7.
One huge reason the Rangers were able to even up the series has been limiting Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. On an individual basis, Crosby is the best all-around player for either team, but the production has not been there.
Crosby only has one goal in 12 playoff games and has eight assists to go along with it. Nine points in 12 games seems like more than decent production, but not when your name is Crosby. He also tallied most of those assists in the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets; he only has three points during the second round.
The Penguins have lost all momentum they had earlier in the series, and Crosby is the player who will raise their confidence. The Rangers need to make sure that doesn’t happen. Considering Crosby has zero points in the last two games, New York needs to continue to execute their strategies against Crosby.
Those strategies involve forcing Crosby to the outside and limiting his space with the puck. He can be one of the most dangerous and creative offensive players when given time and space. New York needs to keep the pressure up in the neutral zone and avoid letting the Pens into their zone easily. New York’s defensemen must play smart in the offensive zone, because you can’t afford to give up odd-man rushes to Crosby or any of the Penguins for that matter.
Pressuring the Penguins is something the Rangers failed to execute in the beginning of the series, and they’ve made the adjustment in recent games. The Rangers need to duplicate their efforts from the last two games, and they will be hard to handle.
While Crosby is the player the Rangers must contain, they also can’t over-commit on him. If too many Rangers are drawn to stopping Crosby, that leaves space open for Evgeni Malkin. They need to stifle Crosby but do it without giving Malkin a chance to burn them.
The Rangers have to be pleased with keeping Crosby to three points in six games, and they’ll need to keep it up if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.