Alright, as you probably already know I'm not as big of a hockey guy as Luke is, but I am a Penguins fan and I love the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Pens were in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in the last nine seasons but they snuck in as the final wild card and will play the New York Rangers in the first round. The Rangers won the President's Trophy for best record in the league and are obviously the top seed in the East. This matchup is a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Semifinals in which the Blueshirts erased a 3-1 Pens series lead to take it 4-3 and went on to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals after defeating the Canadiens in the Eastern Finals. The Pens just fell asleep and forgot how to score in the last three games of that series, and it was not fun to watch.
However, it's a much different team this year for the Pens, and unfortunately they're arguably worse. And they're facing a Rangers team that is arguably much better than the one that reached the Finals last season. But with that being said, you'd be nuts to count out a team that has the star power Pittsburgh has. They've constantly choked since their 2009 Cup and it resulted in the firing of head coach Dan Bylsma and GM Ray Shero. They brought in Mike Johnston as the coach and Jim Rutherford as GM and they were fine for a while. But they almost started their yearly choking too early by nearly missing the playoffs. Hopefully Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and others got the bad play out of the way before the playoffs and are ready to go. I don't know much about the Rangers but obviously they're very good and Henrik Lundqvist is a beast at goaltender. Speaking of goaltending, the Pens' Marc Andre Fleury now has a reputation for completely sucking in the playoffs. He definitely earned that rep a couple of years ago, but last year I thought he was very solid. Tough to win games when your team forgets how to put the puck in the net. And this season, Fleury was arguably the team's MVP during the regular season. He had a .920 save percentage, 2.25 goals allowed per game, 34 wins, and 10 shutouts. Fingers crossed he keeps that up. He's definitely gonna have to step up and be great when they're going up against arguably the best goaltender in the league.
Like I said, I don't know much about the Rangers, and I haven't even been able to watch the Penguins at all really because I don't get NBC Sports Network at my apartment, so my prediction is gonna be based solely on the fact that I'm a Pens fan. And I think that the Penguins got a little wake up call by barely making the playoffs. I think they're ready to rock n roll now that we're into the playoffs. Penguins in 7. (If you aren't a Penguins fan, you'd probably say Rangers in 6.)
Here's the series schedule: