Rangers vs. Penguins: Biggest Takeaways from Game 6
"Season’s over for Rangers, now it’s time to look to the future." That was the headline that appeared in a blog post by The Hockey News columnist Ken Campbell after a Game 4 loss by the New York Rangers.
Well, the players have spoken, and they say that the season isn't over, and they will play a Game 7. The Blueshirts were victorious in Game 6, and the Pittsburgh Penguins will look to avoid blowing a 3-1 lead in a winner-take-all Game 7 on May 13 at the Consol Energy Center.
This matchup appears to be a tossup at this point, as the teams look drastically different than when the series began. There are a lot of takeaways to consider from Game 6, and here are the biggest ones that stood out.
Henrik Lundqvist Is Unbeatable Right Now
In the Rangers' last two wins, Henrik Lundqvist has stopped 67 of 69 shots, posted a goals-against average of 1.00 and has a .971 save percentage. In simple terms, Lundqvist has been a brick wall. The Rangers' netminder has been good, and that is something that should worry Penguins fans.
Earlier in the series, the Blueshirts didn't get the best of Lundqvist, but right now he is coming through when it matters most. He has stepped up to the plate big time, and he is proving he is worth every penny of his $59.5 million extension.
Lundqvist stopped 36 shots in Game 6. The lone goal was a double deflection that brushed off Kevin Klein before finding its way behind Lundqvist. The Penguins' forwards are scratching their heads right now, and heading into Game 7, Lundqvist has the edge.
Penguins' Top Stars Are Getting Frustrated
The Penguins' top starts of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz are getting frustrated. In Game 6, each player at one point or another was involved in a post-whistle scrum with the Rangers, or they were seen jawing with a Ranger.
Obviously Pittsburgh is frustrated. The Penguins have two goals on their last 69 shots, and the two goals scored haven't exactly been beauties. Malkin split the defense in Game 5 to force a shot on net, and he put home his own rebound on a prone Lundqvist. Not exactly Malkin's best work, but still enough to get on the board.
Kevin Klein tipped in a puck in Game 6, and he was unofficially credited with an own goal. The simple fact is that the Penguins aren't as offensively charged as they were in Games 2 through 4. Something changed in Game 5, it carried over to 6, and they don't want it to happen in 7.
Dan Bylsma was playing matchmaker with his lines in Game 6, and nothing was clicking. At this point, the Penguins are grasping at straws, and they will need to turn it on if they want to advance to the conference final.
Rangers Have Become a Galvanized Team
Death is a terrible situation all around. The end of life is hard to talk about, comprehend and experience as a family member. Martin St. Louis lost his mother prior to Game 5, played in the game and flew in his family for Game 6. In true Hollywood fashion, he scored the first goal of the game.
It wasn't a snipe or a dirty dangle, but the goal was symbolic. It was a byproduct of St. Louis putting his head down and going to work, and he received some puck luck at the net mouth. The celebration said it all, and it was a powerful moment.
Speak to any Ranger and they will all say the same thing. "We are playing for Marty." "This is for Marty's family." The Blueshirts have become a galvanized unit around a forward who was acquired in a deal that sent Ryan Callahan, an eight-year team veteran, to Tampa.
The Blueshirts played with emotion in Game 6, and they fed off of the momentum St. Louis' goal created. Carl Hagelin quickly made it 2-0, and the Rangers were rolling. Right now the Rangers are playing for more than just the Stanley Cup. They are playing for the family of a teammate, and it really shows.
Marc-Andre Fleury Has Looked Shaky
Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular in Games 2-4, but he's faltered in the past two games. Fleury gave up a very weak goal to Carl Hagelin in the first period, and a save could have altered the game. If Fleury makes the save, the game remains 1-0, and maybe the goal scored later in the period results in a 1-1 tie after one period of play.
Instead of a 1-1 tie, the Rangers took a 2-1 lead into the second, and they would hold that lead the rest of the way. The Blueshirts are no longer shooting directly into Fleury's chest, and he is being forced to make saves.
He isn't making all of the saves he needs to, and the Rangers are taking advantage. He gave up another questionable goal to Derick Brassard after failing to freeze the puck. He gave up a glorious rebound, and Brassard kept fighting until the puck was in the net.
In the last two games, Fleury has surrendered seven goals, and there is reason to believe he is starting to doubt himself. Fleury isn't looking like the goalie who recorded back-to-back shutouts, but instead he is looking like the Marc-Andre Fleury of playoffs past.
If the Penguins lose this series, Fleury could be the scapegoat, because his inability to make saves in crucial games is costing his team.
The Return of Chris Kreider Has Swung Balance in Favor of the Rangers
Chris Kreider returned in a Game 4 loss. He was reasonably rusty, and the 19 games off from injury had clearly caught up with him. In Game 5, he was much better, but Game 6 was a great overall performance from Kreider.
His speed and forechecking ability led to Martin St. Louis' goal, and he was a force all night long. A questionable goaltender-interference penalty robbed Kreider and the Rangers of a power-play goal, which would have been his second of the series.
Kreider's return to the lineup has certainly given the Blueshirts a boost offensively, and his overall speed and set of skills gave the Rangers a huge lift in a pivotal Game 6.