November 22: Penguins vs. Rangers Game Preview

The Pittsburgh Penguins are set to take on the New York Rangers tonight at 7 PM EST in front of their home crowd at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins, who are coming off a 3-0 shutout victory against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions Vegas Golden Knights, are looking to continue the upward trend. The Rangers, who just suffered a tough 6-3 loss in Dallas against the Stars Monday night, are looking to turn things back around. Tonight’s game is the first in the Penguins’ season series against the Rangers, and the outcome of this game could determine the tone of the rest of the series.

Coming Into Tonight

The Rangers have been on a tear this year, sitting first in the Metropolitan division with a 12-3-1 record and having won 9 of their last 11 contests. Their game against the Devils on November 18 marked the return of their star goaltender, Igor Shesterkin, who had been out since November 3 with an undisclosed injury. Shesterkin will likely be the starting goaltender in this game, although backup Jonathan Quick played very well for New York while Sheterkin was out. 

Pittsburgh comes into tonight’s game with two days of rest after back-to-back games against the Carolina Hurricanes and the aforementioned Vegas Golden Knights. Pittsburgh split the back-to-back, losing 4-2 in Carolina but rallying back and smothering the Knights 3-0 in Pittsburgh. Tristan Jarry started in net in Carolina and made 30 saves on 33 shots in the Penguins’ losing effort, while Alex Nedeljkovic earned the shutout against Vegas. Jarry will most likely get the start in net against Rangers.

Players To Keep An Eye On

Alexis Lafreniere has been on fire for the Rangers this year. The 2020 first-overall pick already has seven goals and 11 points in 16 games for the Blueshirts this season. He’s been an impact player who generates chances whenever he is on the ice. 

Sidney Crosby, who just broke his 11-game point streak on Sunday, has 12 goals and ten assists for 22 points in 17 games this season. On top of that, the captain has a +11 rating and 2.27 goals above expected. He’s been a difference-maker for the Penguins this season, just as he has been his whole career. He will undoubtedly be an impactful part of this game for the Penguins.

Team Matchup

The Rangers are one of the best teams in the NHL right now; they have speed, skill, and strength up and down the lineup. They play an excellent transition game and depend primarily on speed to generate offense. Their powerplay, sitting at an incredible 32.7%, is also a concern for the Penguins. Pittsburgh’s powerplay has been struggling to click this season, finishing on only 15.2% of man advantages. This black-and-white difference means Pittsburgh must stay disciplined to give themselves the best chance of winning. However, with New York being one of Pittsburgh’s fiercest rivals, staying out of the box might be difficult. 

Pittsburgh can play a solid two-way game, but the keys to winning this game against the Rangers will be to minimize turnovers, stay out of the box, and keep New York in their zone as much as possible. Pittsburgh must be the ones to determine the pace of play; otherwise, they will be chasing for the whole game and unable to generate any offense. The Rangers will force the Penguins to backcheck and try to get Pittsburgh to chase the puck; however, if Pittsburgh can stick to their game, play good defense, and not let the Rangers’ speed intimidate them, they have a great chance of succeeding.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I would say the Rangers have the advantage against the Penguins simply because of age and speed, but we’ve seen this Pittsburgh team defy the odds before, and they can do it again. The Penguins will be riding the momentum of their massive win on Sunday, and that confidence could be the deciding factor, given that the Rangers are coming off a pretty bad loss. In the end, this game could go either way, but it will be an exciting division rivalry matchup that’s sure to be heated and skilled on both sides. 

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