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PHT Morning Skate: Rangers-Pens, ‘Hawks-Wild start it up

May 2, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins Getty Images

There’s no rest for the weary in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Two of the four teams playing tonight got their pass to the second round on Wednesday night after Game 7 wins. The New York Rangers slipped past the Philadelphia Flyers and are rewarded with a trip to the other side of Pennsylvania to face the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Out West, the Minnesota Wild needed overtime to dispose of the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7 and now they head east for a date with the Chicago Blackhawks for the second consecutive season. This time around it’s in a later round of the playoffs and, oh yeah, they may not have their top goalie of the postseason. No one said the playoffs were easy.

Game 1: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Penguins getting by the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games ended up working out just fine for the team to get a little bit of rest heading into the second round. With the added time off, it gives Marc-Andre Fleury an opportunity to reset himself after a series that was a bit more exciting than he’d like.

While the schedule for this series is a bit unkind, the Penguins have to be wary of the team that’s still rolling in game mode. It might seem like the Rangers are coming in tired, but the way this schedule works out it’s no different than how tight the regular season schedule was.

Each team is 2-1-1 against the other this season and there’s pressure on guys on both sides.

For the Rangers it’s on Rick Nash to pick things up. Nash had no goals and four assists against the Flyers and getting him to pot a goal in this series would get a big monkey off his back. In 23 career playoff games he has just two goals.

You could say there’s pressure on Sidney Crosby to score, but with how he’s played in the postseason it’s just a matter of time. The focus, instead, is on Fleury. There’s always pressure on goalies in the postseason, but with him it’s at a higher level. That may not be fair, but it’s just how it is.

Game 1: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild (9:30 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

Perhaps the most curious stat between these two teams this season is the head-to-head record. Minnesota went 3-1-1 against Chicago this season and despite the difference in record, the final three games they played were one-goal games.

Of course in the playoffs you can throw out what happened in the regular season as situations have changed. The Wild may be down three goalies as this round starts as Darcy Kuemper left Game 7 against Colorado with an injury. They’re already without Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding and that puts Ilya Bryzgalov firmly in the spotlight if Kuemper can’t go.

Facing a Blackhawks team that found their mojo beating the St. Louis Blues in six games with your No. 4 goalie doesn’t sound like a plan for success. Chicago got great performances from all their top players. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Marian Hossa were all at their best against the Blues and if that continues into this round, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin will have their hands full.

The pressure of containing all those guys shifts to the forwards as well meaning Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise‘s ability to defend will be tested. The Wild will need to see more out of Jason Pominville and hope rookies Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle continue to do what they showed against the Avalanche.

  1. elmerbrownelmerbrown - May 2, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    This Rangers Pens series is gonna be a bore gore with the unemotional Rangers and the new and improved disciplined Crosby -Malkin act

    • hockey412 - May 2, 2014 at 9:45 AM

      ELMER! BORING PLAYOFF HOCKEY?!?!?!

      • elmerbrownelmerbrown - May 2, 2014 at 10:16 AM

        412 I have been going to hockey games for 45 years the Rangers Flyers playoff series was the most unemotional hockey I have ever witnessed ! It lacked even regular season intensity ! The series bordered on weird on how clean it was played ! That is giving all the credit too the Rangers they do not have to play with emotion to win !

      • elmerbrownelmerbrown - May 2, 2014 at 10:29 AM

        Yes and the Rangers just might bore their way to a Stanley Cup Championship and if thats what it would take for the Flyers to win their 3rd cup in franchise history I would enjoy that very much

    • jkay1818 - May 2, 2014 at 9:52 AM

      Sorry that the Rangers were so unemotional against your Flyers. Could you imagine if they had a little emotion last series? I mean they only outplayed them in 6 of the 7 games.

      The Nash stat is pretty misleading. No goals, but, he skated really well in the first series. His line generated a lot of chances, controlled the puck a ton and he played well defensively. Last I saw his CF% was second or third highest so far of any player this post season. Goals will come for anyone skating like that.

      • elmerbrownelmerbrown - May 2, 2014 at 10:21 AM

        Maybe before you get snippy you should recognize a compliment ! The Rangers are very good it borders on weird that they can win in an emotional sport with out emotion its almost robot like which if that what would give the Flyers a cup I would be all for it ,,GO RANGERS !!

    • 7mantel - May 2, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      Watch the games and when you feel bored turn on a baseball game , you can watch a whole period of hockey and only miss 1inning !

  2. comeonnowguys - May 2, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    Chicago got great performances from all their top players.
    Except Sharpie. He was starting to look like Hockey Job out there until his goal late in the clinching game.

  3. joey4id - May 2, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    I’m just happy that the 3 or 4 game nights are over and done it. Brutal! After that wild and crazy night on Wednesday I was barely awake when the Bs and Habs played in OT.

    Looking forward to see if MAF is really out of his funk. I’m still not convinced he can be a steady force for the Pens.

    Are we going to see a lot of goals in the Min/Chi series? idk Both teams can play excellent d, and the Hawks gamers seem to capitalize on the slightest opportunity. Goaltending has got to be a concern for the Wild.

  4. nyeagles10 - May 2, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    hahaha some pens fans think this is going to be a walk in the park. Who is your goalie again ? enough said Rangers stay out of the box your teams in trouble. P.S – if Kreider comes back, its a whole new beast.

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