Up until last night the New York Rangers were unsure who they would play in the first round of the 2015 NHL playoffs. However, regardless of who made it in, the Presidents’ Trophy winning Rangers would be a confident team heading into the playoffs.
With their 4-2 win over the Washington Capitals, the Blueshirts have proven they’re legitimate contenders this year. That win was without stars Rick Nash, Marc Staal and Mats Zuccarello, as they were rested for the playoffs. With the regular season wrapped up, the Rangers have concluded their best season in franchise history posting a record of 53 wins, 22 losses and seven overtime losses, for a total of 113 points.
And then there’s the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Once a regular season juggernaut, the Pens were forced to win their last regular season game simply to make the playoffs. Their 2-0 win over the putrid Buffalo Sabres solidified their ninth consecutive playoff berth, but does it really matter?
Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses over each team.
New York Rangers – They’re big, they’re fast and are almost flawless. The Rangers are capable of rolling four effective forward lines, which is crucial for the playoffs. Their defense is solid and the “worst and most overrated defender” on the roster is Staal.
Think about that for a minute: Marc Staal is the worst defender on the roster.
That’s the type of depth New York has this season. Then there’s the Blueshirts’ goaltenders. Henrik Lundqvist missed some time and backup Cam Talbot came in and played at the same level. The Rangers are a very scary team.
Pittsburgh Penguins – It’s really hard to find a strength on the Penguins heading into the playoffs. However, the old card of having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the team still make them a threat. Having one of the best players in hockey on year team is an advantage, having two is almost cheating.
New York Rangers – There are two potential weaknesses on this Ranger team. Lundqvist had a significant injury and missed a lot of time. Will he be mentally ready for the playoffs? Cam Talbot is a great backup, but there is no goaltender (not named Carey Price) who can take over a playoff series like Lundqvist can.
Additionally, will star wing Martin St. Louis have enough left in the tank for a deep playoff run? The 39-year-old win has played in over 1,200 career games and it’s fair to be concerned if he will have enough left to chase the Stanley Cup again.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Just about every player who isn’t named Crosby, Malkin, Patric Hornqvist or Marc-Andre Fleury. There’s a reason the Penguins just barely made the playoffs. The team lacks depth, their defense is crippled and there is no solid backup behind Fleury.
What will it take to win?
New York Rangers – Play their game, rattle Fleury early and shutdown Malkin and Crosby. “The Flower” has been a playoff liability for years now and this season has been his best ever, but will he be able to carry the team?
Pittsburgh Penguins – They have the talent, the roster might be injured, but if players step up, there’s a chance this team has a chance to top the Rangers. Coming into the playoffs, the Penguins were stumbling, but all it takes is a spark and this team could pull off a giant upset.