Steel City v Big Apple
Ok, Penguins Nation, it’s been decided.
After Joffrey Lupul’s game winner in OT last night over here in Washington, the stage has finally been set for a standard playoff rematch for our beloved Penguins. Next up? The New York Rangers.
You may commence booing and hissing. I’ll wait, since I’ll join you.
Ok. Feel better?
So, are we looking at another Ottawa-style rollover? Probably not. This’ll be a hard-fought series, in my opinion, but won’t go to seven games. And I’m confident – like all of you, no doubt – that our Penguins shall triumph over the Blue Shirts of Broadway.
So let’s look at the nitty-gritty, shall we?
Both teams have strong depth down the line. Our stars are younger, for sure – this is Sid’s, Gino’s and Staal’s second year in the playoffs. We’re facing down some playoff veterans on the other side of the ice, and these names are familiar – Jagr, Straka, Gomez. But as you compare lines, it’s close to even. Both teams have size, strength, speed, and depth. Talent, I think, is really going to play a factor here.
Sid’s on fire, appearing everywhere on the ice in the Ottawa games. And Gino’s been nothing short of fantastic; clearly a level above last year’s failed run. Staal and Gonchar are steady, Hossa’s been phenomenal, and Roberts is just stellar in his return to the ice – despite the recent groin injury.
On the Ranger’s side, Jagr’s apparently woken up from his emotional slumber, no doubt in the wake of unconfirmed rumors that he’s abandoning the NHL next year for Russia. The Devils couldn’t stop him – but then again, all the Devils really had to begin with was Broduer.
Our former glory-hound has eight points in five games. And during the regular season, Jagr’s knocked out seven points against the Pens in eight games (2 G, 5 A), with five of them on the power play.
Other standouts for the Rangers? Scott Gomez, a solid center, knocked in seven points with a +/- of five. And Straka assisted on five goals (six points) during the Devil beatdown.
I think, however, the biggest matchup is going to come down to the netminders. Fleury vs Lundqvist. Henrik’s put in a respectable 2.36 GAA and .917 save percentage so far in the playoffs. He’s shown himself to be flexible as well, but I don’t think he’s capable of surviving a Crosby / Malkin / Hossa onslaught night after night.
So what about Fleury? He’s faced less shots – and played one less game – than Henrik, but has posted a 1.26 GAA, a .955 save percentage and a shut-out. And, more importantly, he’s been on fire since his return earlier this year.
It’s going to be a brutal series, no question. Lots of hitting, lots of scoring. And lots of animosity between us and them. I’m sure many stalwart fans remember Grave’s chop on Mario’s hand back in ’92 (I still do!) – and if something like that happens here, well, I don’t know if there’ll be much left after Hal, Georges and Jarko get ahold of them.
My call? Penguins in six. And Jagr goes home a crybaby. Again.