Series Update: Penguins vs. Rangers
We take a look at the main storylines in this Eastern Conference matchup
Series Update: Penguins vs. Rangers
Goaltending could decide the series: The Penguins and the Rangers are both two strong teams that were powered into the playoffs on the strength of their goaltending. Tristan Jarry for the Penguins and Igor Shesterkin for the Rangers are both in the running for the Vezina Trophy this year for best goaltender, so it makes sense that the biggest storyline of this series so far has been the goaltending.
For the Penguins, they lost Jarry during the last week of the season and had to turn to backup goaltender, Casey DeSmith. DeSmith had a decent season backing up Jarry and was seen as a dependable option going into the series. However, DeSmith was injured during the opening game of the series and the Penguins had to call on third-string goaltender, Louis Domingue, to bail them out of their marathon, 3OT first game, which he did.
For the Rangers, Shesterkin has been a rock all year long, but when the Rangers have needed him to steal some games, he really has yet to do so outside of a Game No. 2, 39-save performance that resulted in a 5-2 win. Despite this sparkling performance, Shesterkin was pulled in Game No. 3 after giving up four goals on just 15 shots. For the Rangers to advance, they’ll need Shesterkin to step up and they’ll need to take advantage of the minimal playing time Domingue has had this season.
Star showdown: In a series that is likely going to be decided by which team gets the better goaltending, a lot of that also relies on which team’s snipers produce more over the course of the series. To date, both the Penguins’ and Rangers’ top stars are producing. For the Penguins, and to nobody’s surprise, Sidney Crosby is leading the way with six points in three games. Right behind him is regular-season, 40-goal scorer, Jake Guentzel with four points. Both Crosby and Guentzel have been leaned on heavily in this series, as one would expect, with both players averaging nearly 25 minutes of ice time per game.
The Rangers relied on the elite goal-scoring of Chris Kreider and the elite playmaking of Artemi Panarin during the regular season. That pattern has continued through into this first round matchup with both players logging 4 points while averaging over 23 minutes per game.
Adam Fox has also carried play for the Rangers and has three points while averaging a mind-boggling 31 minutes per game. The high scoring rate of either team’s scorers will likely need to continue for either team to have a chance of advancing in this round.
Depth Scoring: The Stanley Cup playoffs is where unsung stars are born, and with goaltending already an issue for both teams, this matchup is key for depth guys to shine. So far, that’s already been the case for both teams.
The Rangers are benefitting from late-season pickup Frank Vatrano, who has logged four points in three games while playing a depth role and averaging 18 minutes of ice time. For the Penguins, defenseman Mike Matheson, has really found his game during this first-round series, taking the spotlight away from Kris Letang. Matheson, usually a more physical presence on the ice, has already registered four points in three games while seeing over 28 minutes of ice time per game. While the elite scorers on the Rangers and Penguins are likely to continue scoring, look out for a future game in this series to come down to an unsung player being the hero.
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