Penguins vs. Rangers: Biggest Takeaways from Game 4
The Pittsburgh Penguins were victorious for a third consecutive game on Wednesday night, 4-2, and they now have a commanding 3-1 series lead over the New York Rangers.
It was another contest dominated by the folks in gold, white and black, and they are now in a position to finish things up on home ice in Game 5 at Consol Energy Center.
This game was similar to the last two in nature, but here are the biggest takeaways from Game 4.
The Penguins Are a Better Team Than the Rangers
The Penguins have outmatched the Rangers in virtually every situation since the start of Game 2, and Game 4 was hard to watch if you were a Blueshirts fan. The three-headed dragon of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin was unstoppable, and the line was too hot to contain.
It didn't matter what the situation was; the Penguins just outplayed the Rangers. Pittsburgh was able to score at even strength, and it scored a short-handed goal during the second period. The Rangers had no answer all night long, and the Penguins look like a team possessed thus far into Round 2.
The Rangers Are a Tired Hockey Team
The Rangers have played six games in the last nine nights, and they have spaghetti legs. While it is true that they are at some fault because of their inability to finish off the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of Round 1, a victory in that game would have given the Blueshirts only an extra day of rest.
While it may seem that saying the Rangers are tired is an excuse, it isn't. To be successful four times against a squad as talented in the Penguins, a team needs to be well rested and full of energy. The Blueshirts lucked out a win in Game 1 while riding the fumes of an uplifting Game 7 victory, but they have been M.I.A. since that point.
The Rangers aren't getting the job done, and they will likely lose this series, but it would have been interesting to see how this series played out if the Blueshirts were fully rested.
Jussi Jokinen Continues to Make Carolina Hurricanes Look Bad
Jussi Jokinen scored his third goal of the series—sixth of the playoffs—in Game 4, and his continued dominance against the Rangers must make Carolina Hurricanes fans cringed. In 2013, the Hurricanes traded Jokinen for a conditional pick in the 2013 NHL draft, and since that point, he's been an underrated stud for Pittsburgh.
Jokinen is a player with amazing hands, speed and creativity, and he's been very tenacious on the puck during this second-round series. His goal in Game 4 was a simple turnaround shot from the boards, and it entered the net after deflecting off the skates of Marc Staal.
The Penguins have had success this series because their complementary players have stepped up, and Jokinen has been a huge asset thus far.
Chris Kreider Was Really Rusty
Chris Kreider returned to the lineup after a lengthy absence after undergoing hand surgery, and his injection into the lineup for Game 4 could have sparked the Rangers. It was a good idea in theory, but it didn't really help the Rangers.
He took a stupid penalty on Crosby, he was loose with the puck and he didn't look comfortable defensively. Granted he has missed considerable time, but in a situation like Game 4, everything is magnified whether it is good or bad.
Penguins' Willingness to Outwork Rangers Is Paying Off
In Game 4, the Penguins outworked the Rangers in the little areas, and it paid huge dividends.
The Penguins won 31 of 49 faceoffs, they outhit the Rangers 29 to 28 and they forced 25 turnovers. It was evident that the Penguins were far more aggressive than the Rangers, and it really shows in the stats sheet. When you are dominant in these areas, it is easier to score goals because it means you are driving play and not trying to play catch-up.
The Penguins' willingness to play a complete game has made a difference thus far, and it is why they will likely advance to their second straight Eastern Conference Final.
Stats via NHL.com.