Chiroo, The Associated Press
NEW YORK – Gerard Gallant isn’t worried about his team’s lack of experience in the playoff, though they will face the veteran Pittsburgh Penguin, who will play the playoffs for the 16th consecutive season.
Galant led the New York Rangers to second in the DC division in its first campaign in the Big Apple. It’s their first playoff appearance in five years, with the exception of the 2020 qualifiers. They finished the season with 52 wins, giving them an ice advantage at home in the first-round series against the Penguins.
“I love our team, with this mix of young players who have played such an important role for us this season,” Gallant said. I think we can go away. I don’t know if we’ll make it, but I think we have as good a chance as anyone else.”
The penguins have the longest streak of any North American sport, but they haven’t won a streak in the past three years. They reached the second round in 2018, having won the Stanley Cup the previous two seasons.
The Pennsylvania team struggled long-term, going 7-9-2 in their last 18 games. But coach Mike Sullivan is confident their experience will help them.
“There is no more proficient core in hockey now than ours,” Sullivan said. These guys have seen snow, they’ve been through a lot. They’ve had a lot of success, but they’ve also had their share of disappointments. I believe that the experience gained during these events can only help you with the challenges they will have to face.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Christopher Letang lead the eight players who won the Cup five years ago and are still in the squad.
Letang noted, “The series is very different, and the intensity is much higher there. To manage the ups and downs, win a game or even be there, you have to be able to stay calm and focus on what you have to do, and make sure you are not distracted by the crowds, penalties, etc. You have to manage your emotions and control the game.
Rangers have only two players – strikers Mika Zibanijad and Chris Kreider – to make it through the club’s second-round play-off in 2017. The qualifying round.
Artemi Panarin, who was in his first season in New York that year, doesn’t think the team will try to motivate themselves with this incident.
“I don’t hear anyone talk about what happened in the bubble,” he said. “Maybe I don’t speak English well enough,” he added with a laugh.
Dominate the Chesterkin
In goal, Igor Shesterkin will be a contender for the Vezina Championship for Rangers, having lost 36-13-4 six times. His 2.07 goals against average and .935 save percentage were the best in the league. Against the Penguins, his record was 3-1 with a 1.01 GAA and 0.960 hit percentage.
Penguins without Tristan Gary (34-18-6, 2.42, 0.919 savings ratio) may be for the start of the streak after suffering a lower body injury two weeks prior. Casey DeSmith (11-6-5, 2.79, .914) will take over the temporary assignment.
Rangers have won three of four games against the Penguins this season, with all three coming in the same two weeks late in the season, leading 14-3 in those three wins.
“Now the score is 0-0 and no one has won a match,” Zibanjad said. I don’t think the season makes any difference.”
First since the 1994 Cup
Kreider would earn Hart Trophy votes with 52 goals and a season of 25 assists, while Panarin (96 points), Zibanegad (81) and Adam Fox (74) gave four goals over 70 points for the first time since the 1993-94 season, when Rangers won Last Stanley Cup.
Crosby (31-53-84) and Goetzel (40-44-84) led the penguins’ scoring column. Rost (24) and Malkin (20-22-42 in 41 games) also reached the 20-goal mark, while Letang led the team with 58 assists.