The Pittsburgh Penguins won their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New York Rangers by winning Game Five in overtime at the Mellon Arena on Sunday. The Penguins won the series, 4-1, which surprised a lot of people who expected this series to go at least six games.
So what went wrong for the Rangers, and what went right for the Penguins in this series?
The Rangers' Woes
The power play: The Rangers struggled on the power play in each game following Game 1. Did the Penguins penalty killers, and Marc-Andre Fleury have something to do with it? Most likely. However, you aren't going to win many playoff games if you can't capitalize on the man advantage.
You can't buy a championship: Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, and Brendan Shanahan made a combined $19 million this season. They combined for one goal in this series.
Defensemen: The Rangers defensemen did next to nothing (besides in Game 4) to slow down the Penguins' offensive attack. Marc Staal, Daniel Girardi, Michal Rozsival, and the others hung goaltender Henrik Lundqvist out to dry numerous times throughout the series. Darius Kasparitis anyone?
Home ice dominance: The Penguins continued their dominant play at Mellon Arena, winning each home game of the series, and remaining undefeated at home during the playoffs. Jaromir Jagr's inability to make a difference for his team on his former home ice made it very difficult for the Rangers to win since no one else stepped up to fill the void.
Penalty Killing: The Penguins' PK units shut down the Rangers in the series, making the Rangers beat them 5-on-5. The Rangers just couldn't match up with the Pens at even strength.
Syko MaMa: The line of Petr Sykora-Evgeni Malkin-Ryan Malone continued to be a force on the ice in this series. Malkin led the way with four goals and four assists in the series.
Deadline Acquisitions: Marian Hossa scored four goals in the series, including the series winner in overtime of Game 5. He finally silenced the critics who claimed that he disappears come playoff time. Pascal Dupuis was a key part of the penalty kill, and he added a big goal in Game 1, playing alongside Crosby and Hossa.
The Flower: Marc-Andre Fleury continued to impress during this series. While he wasn't as dominant in this series as he was in the first round, Fleury gave the Penguins a chance to win every game. His shutout in Game 2 was the 15th shutout in Penguins post season history, and his second of the 2008 playoffs.
In conclusion, the Penguins may not have been the more complete team heading in to this series, but they were the better team during the series.
The Rangers couldn't match the offensive firepower of the Penguins, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will have to stock up on the Advil after being expected to carry the Rangers on his back throughout the series.
So what's next? For the Rangers, their offseason will be filled with a lot of uncertainty. The New York media will spend the next four months formulating multiple conspiracy theories, and accusing Crosby of being the NHL's lovechild that will be handed a Stanley Cup simply because that's what the league wants.
Will Jagr go back to Europe? Will the Rangers resign Sean Avery? Will Brendan Shanahan pain fans by returning for yet another season? All of these questions, and more, will be answered in the coming months.
The Rangers have a great young core of talent, on both the offensive and defensive sides of the rink, and with Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes, the Rangers should feel good about what they have going for them.
The Penguins will move on to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2000, where they will meet their hated cross-state rivals from Philadelphia.
This series should be nothing short of a blood bath. The Flyers tamed Ovechkin in the first round and knocked off the top-seeded Habs in the second round.
They are the most confident team in the playoffs right now, and Martin Biron will most likely play a huge role in this series. If Biron is on, the Flyers will make it a long series.
If not, break out the brooms.
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