Just because the Penguins have Sidney Crosby, doesn’t mean the New York Rangers should be shaking in their skates. And they aren’t for good reason.
For a lot of teams in the NHL, offensive talent comes from either a few big scorers or from a lot of different places. As for the New York Rangers, it’s definitely the latter.
Where the Penguins have Sidney Crosby (84), Evgeni Malkin (70) and Patric Hornqvist (51) – all with over 40 points in the regular season – the Rangers have SEVEN players who have topped the same mark: Rick Nash (69), Derick Brassard (60), Derek Stepan (55), Martin St. Louis (52), Mats Zuccarello (49), Chris Kreider (46), and rookie Kevin Hayes (45).
Nash was one of the top goal scorers in the NHL for a long time in the regular season (finishing third in the league with 42 goals) and has already contributed to the team’s success in Round One (Rangers leading 2-1 in the series so far).
After Game Three, Nash has posted one goal and two assists. Although his goal in Game Two wasn’t all too helpful, he’s certainly been getting pucks to the net and keeping possession for the Rangers. And when he’s responsible for a turnover, Nash makes it his personal mission to get the puck back on Rangers tape.
Then there’s Brassard, also on the first line, who had his best season this year with a career high 19 goals and 60 points. The Quebec native now has two big goals since the start of the Playoffs.
Other forwards that have stepped up are Stepan with one goal and one assist, Zuccarello with two assists, as well as Kreider and Hagelin with one goal apiece.
New York Rangers
But that’s not where the points stop for the Rangers. Defense has added to the scoresheet just as often.
And don’t forget Marc Staal‘s incredibly crafty set up, a rebound off the end boards, to set up Kreider in front of the net for the game winner in Game Three.
The Rangers are finding every which way to score, from both forwards and defensemen, and making creative plays. And all of the Penguins and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury are on their toes because of it.
But there’s more to why the Rangers offense is superior to that of the Penguins.
The Pens offense is crowded on the first line whereas the Rangers have sprinkled the big point-scorers throughout the first three lines. The Rangers fourth line is quite capable of scoring; they’ve seen many chances in this series already, but hitting twine is still something that needs to be checked off on their to-do list.
With Crosby and Hornqvist, two of the aforementioned three big point-scorers, both on the first line, it gives the Pens a massive chance to score over a relatively short amount of time compared to the Rangers. It isn’t worth it for the Pens. The Rangers defense just has to make sure that line is covered particularly well while they’re on the ice.
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As for the Pens defense, they have to worry over almost every single line from the Rangers.
Alain Vigneault could’ve bunched the majority of the big point-scorers on the first and second lines, but instead has them spread over the first three lines. Out of the seven Rangers mentioned earlier, three are on the first line: Nash, Brassard and Zucc. On the second line is Stepan and Kreider. And on the third we have Hayes and St. Louis.
That gives the Blueshirts three lines with high-to-medium potential to score over longer portions of the game than the Pens. In a sixty-minute game, that’s going to wear down the Pens defense for sure. It’s also going to give the Rangers more chances to find the scoresheet than the Pens in the long run. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen when Rangers defense hasn’t faltered.
The Rangers offensive tactics are just much more resourceful than the Pens’ strategies. So as long as the Blueshirts continue to roll out the offense-heavy lines and keep the Pens’ Crosby line at bay, New York will retain that edge needed to reach Round Two of the Playoffs.