LCS Hockey: Born Again
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March 24, 2019
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Second Round Preview



WALES CONFERENCE

NEW YORK RANGERS (5) VS PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (2)


Kris Letang
photo by Matthieu Masquelet

Key Matchup: Considering his antics against Martin Brodeur, Sean Avery will no doubt set his sights on Marc-Andre Fleury. But it's pretty tough to get under Fleury's skin. That kid is easy like Sunday morning. The closest he gets to showing anger is when he smiles too hard.

And unlike the Devils, the Penguins have no shortage of guys willing to punch Avery in the face. Gary Roberts won't play Game One, so that removes the best deterrent. Roberts is old school. He doesn't suffer punks like Avery. But the Birds still have big Georges Laraque. I'm sure he'd delight in busting Mr. Cuthbert's skull.

The Penguins also boast the agitator of agitators, Jarkko Ruutu. The Finnish Slash won't hesitate to stir the pot. Ruutu can either beat Avery silly or give Henrik Lundqvist the business. Fleury will be fine.

With the Avery nonsense eliminated, the series will come down to how the New York Rangers' defense matches up against Pittsburgh's top two lines. New York's best pair is Daniel Girardi and Fydor Tyutin. All together now... who canceled?

Girardi is a great young defender, and he's getting better by the day, but he's not playing New Jersey anymore. This is Malkin and Kid Crosby. And if Girardi matches up with Sid, that leaves Michal Rozsival and Marc Staal to handle Malkin. Good luck with that.

At the other end, Jaromir Jagr will be in for a struggle. Hal Gill owns Puff Nuts. Reports are Michel Therrien is juggling his defensive pairings for Game One, teaming Kris Letang with Ryan Whitney, while moving Rob Scuderi next to Gill.

This would seem to be an indication Therrien, notorious for not matching lines, will finally give in to common sense and get Gill out against Jagr every shift. I'll believe it when I see it.

But exactly who will be sparking the transition game when Scuderi and Gill are on the ice? Hey, if they need a passer, Alexander Ovechkin isn't busy.


Marian Hossa
photo by Matthieu Masquelet

Players to Watch: This series could be Marian Hossa's coming out party. While Hossa has had trouble finding the net in his brief time with the Penguins, he's been brilliant defensively. It's a joy watching him work all three zones. But the Birds didn't get him to win the Selke. He's gotta put the puck in the net.

The long layoff should prove invaluable, giving Hossa's knee plenty of time to heal and providing ample opportunity to practice with Crosby. And Hossa has a score to settle with the Rangers. The Blueshirts embarrassed him and the Thrashers last year. It's never too late to mend.

For the Rangers, Lundqvist has to be the man. He's arguably the best goaltender in hockey. He's already conquered Brodeur. A victory over Kid Crosby would secure King Henrik's crown.

Prediction: This should be a great series. But in the end, Pittsburgh's firepower should overwhelm New York's questionable blue line.

Pittsburgh in six.



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