Penguins – Rangers What We Learned
1. Rangers come at the Penguins in waves: The Penguins saw a Rangers team tonight with a personnel more suited to the group that was the President Trophy Winners in 2014-2015, than the slow out of sync team last spring that Pittsburgh overwhelmed.
“They’re focused more on speed now,” Marc Andre Fleury said of the Rangers.
In a game Pittsburgh jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Jake Guentzel, New York would score five unanswered goals to secure the victory.
New York got their share of bounces, a JT Miller shorthanded marker late in the second to put the Rangers ahead 3-2 among them but the latter half of the game, New York was the team getting pucks on net and with traffic.
Pittsburgh missed Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz in a big way tonight.
As this game progressed, the Rangers were able to play to their new found strength of being able to skate past the Penguins and the increased speed in the bottom-6 saw a game play out where Pittsburgh was the team forced to shorten the bench with their slower forwards taking a seat.
Tom Kuhnhackl and Eric Fehr saw just 2 shifts through the first 18 minutes of the third period, Scott Wilson just three shifts.
“They’ve [Rangers] added some speed to their game that’s helped their transition game,” Mike Sullivan said of a change between now and last spring.
2. Penguins struggle to break Rangers Trap: When the Rangers got ahead 3-2, they went immediately into a trapping style. On a lot of occasions, teams sitting back against Pittsburgh, especially when the Penguins are trailing is playing with fire.
However, with the Penguins stars unable to dictate the play, New York was stout defensively in limiting the Penguins to just two shots on goal through the first 14 minutes of the third.
The Rangers 4th goal of the game off a Brian Dumoulin turnover in trying to break the Rangers trap with a stretch pass, was a good example of where New York being a quicker team gave Pittsburgh problems to get through the neutral zone and allowed New York to be aggressive.
Ryan McDonagh is able to step up because he reads the weak side winger is skating stride for stride with a stretching Bryan Rust.
McDonagh creates the turnover then the Rangers crash the net for the goal.
3. Jake Guentzel Shines: Jake Guentzel’s debut could not have been scripted better. Scores on his first shift/first shot, then follows it up with his second goal of the game on his third shot at 13:12 of the first period.
In his first six minutes of ice time in the first period, Guentzel had 2 goals, 4 shots on goal, and created 5 individual scoring chances.
What continues to be most impressive about Guentzel is the hockey IQ/instincts in how he reads the play before it develops.
The skilled presence of Guentzel also looked to open things up for Evgeni Malkin in the middle of the ice in the first part of the game.
“He was probably best player tonight,” Malkin said. “He’s smart player. He understands how we play.”
Where Guentzel had some trouble as the game progressed was handling the puck on the wall on his strong side which shouldn’t be surprising as he’s a natural center. Had a turnover off the wall leading to a high danger chance for the Rangers early in the third.
Guentzel’s Stat Line: 2 Goals, 5 Shots, 6 attempts, 4 hits, 51.9 CF% at 5 v 5.
Guentzel and Matt Cullen led the Penguins with 4 shots in 5 v 5 situations.
— Marc Andre Fleury made 31 saves on 35 shots in the loss. He got an unlucky bounce on the Rangers third goal, while New York’s first goal was a defensive breakdown by the Penguins. The fourth goal is up for debate.
Kevin’s Hayes goal to put the Rangers up 4-2 was a goal where the Rangers got a good bounce by driving to the net, though, what the tape shows is Fleury was off his angle and hugging the left post too much when McDonagh was in a pure pass situation as he was opening up to pass and Justin Schultz was there with pressure.
What is certain is that Michael Grabner’s second period goal to tie the game at 2-2 was one squarely on Fleury.
Fleury didn’t handle a fanned shot that leads to him getting out of position and never recovers. That was a big momentum changing goal Pittsburgh gave up where the Penguins also had four players on the strong side of the puck and pretty much puck watching in not covering the weak side as Tom Kuhnhackl never takes his man. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"