Tonight the Rangers face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins for game 1 of the eastern conference semifinals at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. To determine which team has the edge going into the series, you need to break down the individual weapons of each team.
Pittsburgh obviously has the potent scoring power of Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, Sykora, and Dupuis who tends to score 'the big goal' against his former team. The question is whether the defense plus Lundqvist have the ability to shut these guys down. If the Rangers find a way to do this, they will be at a HUGE advantage. If the Rangers fail to do so, i would call the series for the Penguins in 6.
If the Rangers find a way to shut these guys down, then the Rangers depth and stars need to shine. If Jagr, Gomez, and Drury continue on their pace, along with Dubinsky, Avery, Callahan and other youngsters stepping up, the Rangers should be able to pull out the series win.
I believe the Rangers have the defensive and goal-tending advantage. Fleury and Conklin are both excellent goaltenders, but if the Three time Vezina finalist Lundqvist plays like he did against the devils, that puts the Rangers at a huge advantage.
Defensively both teams are potent, but I'm going to give the nod to Tom Renney's 5 Man defensive system which in my opinion (if functioning properly) should be able to reduce Pittsburgh's firepower.
If all things are functioning properly on both teams (Offense, defense, and goal-tending). I'm going to call the series for the Rangers in 7. Pittsburgh's firepower is definitely greater than the Rangers, but i believe the rangers are stronger in other areas. Pittsburgh also came off a sweep against a team that was already on a downward slide. The Rangers polished off a team in only 5 games that was higher ranked, in a series that was expected to go to 6 or 7 games. The Rangers are in a very similar situation as they were going into Buffalo last year at this time. The Sabres were the higher seed and out matched on paper, but once the Rangers got their head of steam, they looked as if they had control of the series until Chris Drury's goal with 7 seconds left in the 3rd period. I think the Rangers can do it this year. Whoever wins this series, I firmly believe will advance to the Stanley Cup finals. This will be the toughest series of the playoffs for both teams to win.