PENGUINS – RANGERS THE CROSBY MATCHUP
Sidney Crosby comes into the post-season with everything that should be setting up well for him. The Penguins are the hottest hockey in hockey, winning 14 of 16, they play an exciting push-it forward style that plays to Crosby’s strengths, and the team has developed a confidence about them that they haven’t had since the 2013 playoffs when the Penguins went into the playoffs as the Stanley Cup Favorite and a roster loaded with the likes of Jarome Iginla.
Crosby himself has a swagger about him again that he can’t be stopped and is shooting the puck the best he’s had in years.
For Crosby, he doesn’t need a signature playoff moment, his 118 career playoff points in 100 debunk that narrative, not to mention 30+ points in the 2009 Cup run, but for a player who’s regarded as the best player in the game, 3 playoff goals in his last 23 games is about the equivalent of Lebron James averaging 8 points per game over his last 23 playoff games.
Even without Evgeni Malkin for the start of the series, the matchups strongly favor Crosby in Round one with no Ryan McDonagh that is a crushing blow for New York.
The belief is the Rangers plan to counter the loss of McDonagh by matching Marc Staal and Dan Girardi against the Crosby line.
How problematic could that be for the Rangers?
If they can’t slow down the Crosby line through the neutral zone, it could be big trouble for New York. The strength of Staal and Girardi is boxing out in front and blocking shots.
Where they have major liabilities is getting the puck out of their own end and both have slow foot speed. The Crosby line projects to have a major advantage in getting pucks deep against Staal-Girardi and forcing them to turn and retrieve the puck.
Together 5 v 5, Staal-Girardi have been on the ice for 167 shot attempts and 272 against (38 CF%).
When Crosby has been out against Girardi this season 5 v 5 (30:00 + minutes), the Penguins have controlled 64% of their shot attempts.
Marc Staal in less minutes, just north of 14:00, it’s the same story. The Penguins controlled 63% of their shot attempts when Crosby is on the ice against Staal.
If the Rangers do indeed go with this matchup, how long they can stick with it will be fascinating to watch and maybe telling on where this series goes.
The Rangers best d-pairing to matchup against the Crosby line is Keith Yandle – Kevin Klein with Yandle a strong skater and puck mover, while Klein has a much better first pass than Staal or Girardi to withstand the Penguins aggressive approach.
The two have been on the positive side in shot attempt differential when out on the ice against Crosby. The Penguins controlled just 46.3% of their shot attempts when Crosby was on the ice against Klein in 30:00 and only 46% Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"