GAMEDAY 40: The Central Park Rangers

The Penguins begin the new year in America’s most expensive famous arena, Madison Square Garden, to take on the New York Rangers in a nationally televised affair. The Rangers come into this game as winners of their last two, which boosted their record over the last ten games to 4-2-4. The 12 points earned out of a possible 20 has allowed the Rangers to climb up the standings, but they still find themselves 5 points behind the Islanders and 6 points out of a playoff position. Even sniffing the playoffs isn’t a terrible place to be for an organization who sent “sorry we are going to suck” letters to their fans a year ago.

The Rangers are paced offensively by Chris Kreider’s 20 goals, but after him their highest goal totals consist of Zibanejad with 11 and two others with 10. Zibanejad is the team leader with 34 points. Those 34 points would put Zibanejad tied for 4th on the Penguins with Jake Guentzel. The Rangers, as usual, are being saved by wasting yet another year of Henrik Lundqvist who is 12-9-7 on the year despite a .916 save percentage which is just 0.003 below his career average. It is rumored that the 36-year-old goaltender grows 6 gray hairs every time the Rangers lose.

Despite what the win-loss record shows, Lundqvist is doing his part to give the Rangers a chance in every game. When we look at the goaltender map from we see the Rangers are in the top right quadrant, which is where you want your team to be:

Good to see the recent run between DeSmith and Murray has gotten the Penguins to the right side of the graph after spending most of the first half of the season in the bottom left. The Rangers goaltending falls off the chart when it comes to special teams, the Penguins goaltending stays right where it is, the only team to do so:

It isn’t a surprise that the Rangers goaltending drops when the team is short-handed, their penalty kill success rate is only 77%. Going against a Penguins team that has averaged a 26.6% power play success rate, the Rangers would probably be advised not to take penalties tonight. Wow Rad, a team shouldn’t take penalties, expert analysis.

The only changes the Penguins might make to the lineup above is the inclusion of Bryan Rust or Jamie Oleksiak depending on where they are on the recovery train. I’m not completely sold on the current lines the Penguins use, but I can’t argue with a 6-game winning streak. For example, the Pearson-Brassard-Kessel line has now played 48 minutes together at 5v5 and they have been out Corsied 64 to 38, giving the line a CF% of just 37.25%. A third line with Brassard and Kessel going up against other teams third lines should swing heavily in the Penguins favor but right now it just isn’t doing it. The goal for Sullivan right now is Evgeni Malkin, and I feel he will try to mix the wingers as much as it takes to get the Russian center going again.

The Penguins have a solid advantage over the Rangers coming into this game, and if they continue to play the way they have been then this game shouldn’t be a contest. Six straight and not looking to slow down, lets get this year started off right! PS- game is on NBCSN.