Penguins’ Final Game Against Rangers Will Set the Tone for the Playoffs

The Pittsburgh Penguins are third in the Metropolitan Division. The New York Rangers hold the second-place slot with three more wins than the Penguins. The Rangers have become Pittsburgh’s Achilles’ heel of late, claiming both wins in their last two meetings. The Penguins will have a chance to redeem themselves on Thursday, but they must make adjustments in order to find success against the Rangers. 

Rangers vs. Penguins: Goaltenders 

Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin has been good this season. With a save percentage of .934, the Penguins will have their work cut out for them. Shesterkin is also the front runner for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goaltender of the season, and he’s been mentioned in the Hart Memorial Trophy conversation, which is given to the league MVP.

Igor Shesterkin New York Rangers
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

However, Shesterkin has been struggling lately, allowing 14 goals in his last five games. On March 22, he allowed the New Jersey Devils to put five in the net before head coach Gerard Gallant pulled him. On April 1, the Rangers lost to the New York Islanders 3-0, and on April 3, they fell to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in a shootout. Rangers fans are hoping this slump is over, but that will largely depend on Shesterkin’s performance moving forward.

Related: Pittsburgh Penguins Becoming Legitimate Stanley Cup Contenders

The Penguins also have a weapon in goalie Tristan Jarry whose name has also been mentioned in Vezina conversations. When Jarry is at the top of his game, next to nothing will get past him. However, he has struggled to stay consistent this season. Jarry was pulled on March 25 after the Rangers went up 4-0 early. He was put back into the game after backup goalie Casey Desmith left with an injury, and when he returned, he made several amazing saves and held the Rangers to five goals on the night. With the playoffs around the corner, Jarry’s inconsistency will be an area of concern for the Penguins. 

Rangers vs. Penguins: Power Play

The Penguins’ power play is one of the best in the league, especially because of Evgeni Malkin. He was unable to play on March 25 due to illness, and he was greatly missed. At the end of the first period, Rangers left-winger Dryden Hunt was called for high sticking and given a double minor. However, without Malkin on the power play, the Penguins failed to score.

Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Rangers and Penguins met for the first time this season on Feb. 26. Malkin had the only goal, giving Pittsburgh the victory. On Feb. 24, Pittsburgh took a beating against the New Jersey Devils, losing 6-1. Again their only goal came from Malkin on the power play. On March 31, Malkin scored the overtime winner against the Minnesota Wild. The Penguins will be glad to have him back in the lineup Thursday. 

Last Regular-Season Meeting 

Thursday night is the last time the Penguins will see the Rangers in the regular season, and it is their game to lose. On March 25, the Penguins played too cautiously and lacked any type of urgency, and only in the third period of the March 29 game did they start to play more aggressively. The Rangers will have home-ice advantage on Thursday. However, if Pittsburgh can play smart and aggressively for 60 minutes, they should win.

Sign up for our regular 'Penguins Newsletter' for all the latest.
Sign up for our regular 'Rangers Newsletter' for all the latest.

Latest News & Highlights