Key Observations Heading Into Game 3 Between the Rangers and the Penguins

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POSTGAME THOUGHTS: Game 1  | Game 2

By Annie Shean (@JustPuckIt)

The series is even now after a 4-3 Penguins win at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. The Penguins hope to bring the momentum back with them for their first game of the series in front of the home crowd. Both Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz were able to light the lamp Saturday night,  but the Rangers were close behind the end of the game.

The offensive lines at practice consisted of Kunitz-Crosby-Hornqvist, Bennett/Wilson-Sutter-Downie, Winnik-Malkin-Perron, and Spaling-Lapierre-Comeau (Adams). The defensive core was made up of  Martin-Lovejoy, Scuderi-Cole, Dumoulin-Chorney, and Harrington was paired with Pouliot. It appeared as if there would not be any lineup changes tonight, until Josh Yohe from The Trib posted this to twitter:

Bennett has fallen out of favor at times for making mistakes, so it would be interesting to see what sort of reaction swapping him — or even threatening to swap him does to Bennett’s play. As for the Rangers no significant lineup changes are excepted for tonight. While Keith Yandle did not practice today due to illness, he is expected to play this evening. There was speculation that he may be injured after taking a barrage of hits during game two.

One player to keep an eye on would be Evgeni Malkin. Since his injury the Star has struggled, unable to notch a goal yet in the postseason While he’s operating at 8-90% that’s not sufficient enough for him. He made comments stating to watch him in game 3, so he must be closer to returning to the good ol’ Geno we know and love.

On the injury front Christian Ehrhoff did not practice at all today with the team or with the trainer. In Wes Crosby’s article today he quotes HCMJ as saying that Ehrhoff “just hasn’t been progressing,” and that “he’s sort of flat-lined in his recovery” (source). This leads into the cold hard fact that we will not be seeing him on the ice anytime soon. While Taylor Chorney has been a surprisingly strong fit so far in the series, Dumoulin has struggled making panic plays a that have led to awful turnovers and other mistakes. On a bright note Derrick Pouliot did practice, however he will not play this evening. With Letang and Maatta out for the season, the blue line sorely needs Derrick Pouliot to make a healthy return soon.

Image Credit: Pens Digital Preview

Image Credit: Pens Digital Preview

In order to keep the momentum going on the side of the Penguins, they need to to cut back on the penalties. The team has had a total of 24 penalty minutes in the past two games compared to the Rangers 10. The officiating has seemed very one-sided at times, but the Penguins need to find a way to be gritty and agitate their opponent without spending so much time in the box of shame. One way to continue to frustrate their opponent goes into my next topic; crashing the net.

Henrik Lundqvist does not like people even remotely near the bleu paint as he is an extremely active hybrid goaltender.He becomes extremely agitated when he is screened — as made evident by Hornqvist doing just that in game two. If the Penguins can frustrate him and cause him to break his focus they would be bound to get a dirty goal or two past him. When shooting if the penguins can make a stronger effort to try and get those quick, top shelf goals in on Lundqvist they will also have strong chance to get themselves on the scoreboard.

“We came back home with the series tied, I said it before, I believe in this group. I believe in my team. I like what we’re doing right now. We’re a tight team and locker room.”
-Evgeni Malkin (Source)

The third item the team needs could be the most important; belief. It may sound like a cliche mighty Ducks movie, but The idea of believing in your team does make a huge difference in the way you play. Being the underdog has caused the team, and the fans to question them — but as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  That spark on the ice doesn’t come from chugging an energy drink before the game — it comes from the teams confidence that they can win together. If they believe in themselves and we believe in them anything could happen.

Let’s Go Pens.

Game Time: 7:00PM / Gates Open 6:00PM
Game Coverage: ROOT Sports / 105.9 The X
Live Stream Link: NBC Sports