Rangers’ Marc Staal uses end boards to set up Chris Kreider for goal on perfect ricochet pass

Chris Kreider of the Rangers and Pittsburgh's Taylor Chorney battle for the puck in Game 4 of their first-round series Monday. (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

With ice in front of their opponents’ net so difficult to acquire in the playoffs, NHLers have grown accustomed to deliberately firing the puck wide of the other team’s net and off the end boards in the hope it will ricochet out to a teammate in position to tap it home for a goal. In Game 4 of the Pittsburgh Penguins/New York Rangers series Monday, Blueshirts defenseman Marc Staal demonstrated why that approach is an option, setting up teammate Chris Kreider for the visitors’ second goal of the night to give them a 2-0 lead.

Staal got the puck at the blueline approximately 11 minutes into the second period in Pittsburgh and quickly shot the puck to the right of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. It bounced out right to Kreider, who batted it into the Pens net in the blink of an eye: Read more

Crosby wakes up, Sutter does a bit of everything in Penguins win

Sidney Crosby

It only took Sidney Crosby four minutes and 39 seconds to double his playoff goal total from last season.

Crosby scored twice in the the second period and Brandon Sutter came up huge on the penalty kill and power play to help the Penguins beat the New York Rangers 4-3 in Game 2 Saturday.

Crosby was dangerous most of the night and found the score sheet twice in a span of 4:39 in the second, breaking a tight goaltending battle between Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury.
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Rumor Roundup: Kari Lehtonen for Jimmy Howard or Cam Ward?

Kari Lehtonen (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

Heading into the off-season, Dallas Stars management face a difficult decision regarding the state of their goaltending. Depth between the pipes was a serious issue, as the Stars failed to find a suitable backup for struggling starter Kari Lehtonen. As a result, they finished the season 27th in goals against.

In a recent chat with Stars fans, the Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News speculated over Lehtonen’s future. While acknowledging the 31-year-old is a “35-win, .917 goalie” who would be difficult to part with, Heika is wavering on whether Lehtonen can regain his form with the Stars.

Heika’s concern is understandable. While Lehtonen won 34 games for the Stars, his goals-against average (2.94) and save percentage (.903) was among the worst for NHL starting goalies. It didn’t help that Lehtonen’s backups (Jhonas Enroth, Anders Lindback and Jussi Rynnas) fared little better, though Enroth improved in his final games of the season.

Perhaps Lehtonen would benefit from a fresh start, but moving him won’t be easy. In addition to his woeful stats, he’s got three years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5.9 million. He also has a no-trade clause, though that becomes a limited one starting in 2015-16. Heika wonders if the Detroit Red Wings would be interested in a swap of Jimmy Howard or if Carolina would want to trade Cam Ward straight up for Lehtonen. Read more

Penguins need virtually flawless game to beat Rangers, and didn’t deliver one in Game 1 loss

Rangers forward Derick Brassard scores on Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury in the first period of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The injury-depleted Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the biggest underdogs of any team entering the 2014-15 NHL playoffs, particularly after they finished the season 3-5-2 and barely managed to claim the final Eastern Conference wild card berth to set up a date with the league’s No. 1 regular-season team, the New York Rangers. And when the Blueshirts scored a goal just 28 seconds into the first period Thursday night, went up 2-0 late in the opening frame, and outshot the Pens 13-5 enterng it looked as if a rout was on.

It didn’t turn out that way, as the Pens gathered themselves from the second period on and made a game of it, cutting New York’s lead to 2-1 six minutes into the second and keeping the Rangers off the scoresheet for the rest of the night at Madison Square Garden. But there are two reasons why Pittsburgh didn’t find a way to win Game 1: firstly, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were unable to produce any offense, something necessary for this team to win; and secondly, they’re playing the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup – a squad that requires only the briefest of breakdowns to take advantage of before clamping down on defense.

Pittsburgh needs to play four virtually perfect games in order to win this series, and their slow start and sloppy first period was more than enough for the Blueshirts to beat them. Read more

Rangers get great Game 1 start against Fleury, Pens with goal 28 seconds after opening faceoff

Derick Brassard of the Rangers watches the puck go past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for the first goal of the Penguins/Rangers Eastern Conference first-round series. (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

Not many hockey pundits, professional or otherwise, were giving the Pittsburgh Penguins much of a chance to win their first-round series with the New York Rangers. And after the Pens gave up the first goal of the series just 28 seconds into Game 1 Thursday night, there are probably more people who feel that way.

Without injured veteran defensemen Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff in the lineup, the Penguins’ defense corps was projected to be a weakness, and it didn’t take long after the opening faceoff before it had a catastrophic defensive breakdown. That came in two parts: the first, when Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allowed a massive rebound on Rick Nash’s slap shot from the blueline; and, more importantly, when Pens d-man Paul Martin allowed Derick Brassard to blow by him and snap a shot past Fleury to make it 1-0 for the home team before the game was a half-minute old: Read more

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview: New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins will be the underdogs when they take on the Rangers (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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HOW THEY WIN

RANGERS: The Rangers yield practically nothing to the opposition. Boasting one of the most skilled and savvy blueline corps in the NHL, New York is always safe with players such as Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi on the prowl. The fact Keith Yandle hasn’t even been mentioned yet speaks volumes of the talent back there, and even if you get through two of those players, you still have to deal with Henrik Lundqvist, the backbone of the franchise. ‘The King’ always gives New York a chance to win, and last year’s appearance in the Stanley Cup final wasn’t enough to slake his thirst for glory. Needless to say, the penalty kill is also a strong suit. Up front the Rangers have speed and skill to burn, headlined by forwards Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and past Cup champion Martin St-Louis. Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin also have some wicked afterburners.

PENGUINS: The Penguins score well in many metrics historically important to playoff success. They’re top-10 in goals against, power play, penalty kill and 5-on-5 scoring. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin remain two of the NHL’s elite players, and Crosby in particular heated up down the stretch. Marc-Andre Fleury was tied for the NHL lead in shutouts and was having quite the season in net, while first-year coach Mike Johnston has utilized his fast-paced style with a nod to defensive responsibility. The Pens have been a better possession team with Johnston at the helm despite injuries/illnesses to key players Crosby, Malkin, Olli Maatta and others. And if you believe in good storylines, the last time Pittsburgh won the Cup was in 2009 when Dan Bylsma was a rookie coach (albeit as a mid-season replacement). Pittsburgh has the weapons to do it. Now it’s just a matter of execution. Read more

The ’69-70 Rangers proved memories are made out of more than Stanley Cups

The Hockey News
Emile Francis (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Gerald Eskenazi

Should a team be defined only by a championship it wins? Can’t a fan have memories of great moments without a title?

It’s spring, and flowers are sprouting, baseball training camps are in full mode, basketball and hockey teams are thinking playoffs and pro football is planning mini-camps.

The Rangers, one of hockey’s best, are poised to go deep into the playoffs, and their fans probably will be heartbroken (again) if they don’t come up with a Cup. But once upon a time, just getting into postseason play was heartwarming.

These days l recall the 45th anniversary of the greatest big-league sports event I covered during my long tenure as a sportswriter with The New York Times. Read more