One of the most storied teams in the National Hockey League is taking on one of the hottest in the Eastern Conference Semi finals.
The New York Rangers are set to drop the puck with the Eastern Conference powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. The Pens offer a lineup that boasts Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, two of the league's top players, as well as Sergei Gonchar, a seasoned defenseman shunned from this year's Norris nominations.
Such a lineup seems daunting to the once favored Rangers, but quality goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, and the resurgence of Jaromir Jagr will help to sink the Pens. The major variable, however, is Sean Avery.
In the quarter finals against the New Jersey Devils, Avery singlehandedly changed the NHL rulebook with his unorthodox screening of Devil's goaltender, and Vezina stalwart, Martin Brodeur. Avery's antics raised the ire of Brodeur's Devils and the media. The five game destruction of the Devils can be attributed to Avery.
Avery's next task: Sidney Crosby
Crosby has established himself as the NHL's premiere player. With this stardom comes a voice, a voice that has seemed, well, whiny. "Sid the Kid" can often be seen acting like a child. He frequently pouts about many facets of today's game, including clutching, grabbing and the like. When his wishes are not granted, he slashes, shoves, and gripes.
Avery will agitate Crosby, and with the kid off his game, the Rangers will prevail.
This may seem like flawed logic, because when Crosby went down with an ankle injury earlier in the season, Malkin and others stepped up to give the Pens the top spot in the East.
The difference: Crosby will still be in the lineup, acting like the kid he truly is. His soon to be negative presence in the locker room will pull the Pens down, and Jagr and his Rangers will take the series.