Rangers vs. Penguins: Biggest Takeaways from 2nd-Round Series
The New York Rangers were counted out by a lot of people after a third straight loss in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News opined that their season was over, and it is fair that no one expected the Rangers to complete a comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Rangers did in fact complete the comeback in Game 7, and they finished the Penguins off by winning three consecutive games, with two of the final three games at the Consol Energy Center. There is a lot to look at after the completion of this series, and here are the biggest takeaways from this second-round series.
Dan Bylsma Is Likely Done in Pittsburgh
Dan Bylsma's claim to fame is leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2009 after inheriting a roster that couldn't get it done with Michel Therrien. The NHL is a results-oriented business, and it begs the question, "Dan, what have you done lately?"
Since winning a Stanley Cup, the Penguins have lost in the conference semifinals twice, the quarterfinals twice and the conference finals once. Two of those losses include blowing a 3-1 series lead, and it is inexcusable considering that the Penguins have two of the world's best players on their payroll.
According to Penguins' beat writer Rob Rossi, Bylsma could lose his job, and general manager Ray Shero could be on the hot seat as well.
Henrik Lundqvist Is Getting Hot at the Right Time
The New York Rangers are rolling as they head to the Eastern Conference Finals, and Henrik Lundqvist is hot. How hot is Lundqvist? In the Rangers' last three wins, Lundqvist has stopped 102 of 105 shots, he has a goals against average of 1.00 and a .971 save percentage.
Lundqvist is 8-6-0 with a 1.99 goals against average and a .931 save percentage this year in the playoffs, and his hot play could be the difference maker in the final round before the Stanley Cup Final.
Penguins' Reliance on Top Forwards Cost Them the Series
Throughout the entire playoffs, the Penguins' top guns were very silent. Sidney Crosby had nine points in 13 games. Kris Letang had six points. James Neal scored two goals. The list of players who failed to execute continues, and it is something that did the Penguins in during the second round.
Outside of Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen, there were no Penguins that stepped up, and there should be a lot of change this summer after another season of failure.
Rangers Depth Has Been Key
In Game 7, the Rangers fourth line got the team off to a 1-0 lead. Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle teamed up for an unlikely goal, and it was something that really got the team going. The Rangers have yet to receive a goal from Rick Nash, but they have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Most teams can't survive without receiving contributions from their top goal scorer, but the Rangers were able to move on because they had multiple players making contributions.
Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot have eight points. Derick Brassard and Carl Hagelin have seven points and there are multiple others contributing in one way or another.
The Rangers are one of the deepest teams left in the playoffs, and that will benefit them as the playoffs continue.
Lot of Uncertainity Facing Pens Roster
The Penguins have $15,980,833 in cap space and only 14 players signed for next season. Matt Niskanen is due for a raise from the $2.3 million he currently makes, Jussi Jokinen and Lee Stempniak are also unrestricted free agents and Brandon Sutter is a restricted free agent.
There are tons of holes to be filled, and not a lot of cap space, given the Penguins' top-heavy payroll structure. It is going to be interesting to see who stays and who goes, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the team shake things up with a huge trade.
Schedule Was Tough, but Rangers End Up with a Benefit
The Rangers had a terrible schedule with the Penguins, and back-to-back Games 2 and 3 proved to be troubling for the Blueshirts. Despite the scheduling issues early, the Rangers will now earn some well-deserved rest.
This rest should benefit the Rangers, because it will give them more time to bond as a team, and some time to get their heads set for the next series.
Game 7 of the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins series will be held on May 15, and that is the same date of Game 6 between the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings. This will give the Blueshirts a bit of a reprieve, and they should be ready for an intense Eastern Conference Finals series.