05/08/2014 at 12:09am EDT
George here on the late shift. I'm getting ready to wake up a little bit early to watch Wings players take part in the World Championships, which begin on Friday. The European press tends to look at the NHL playoffs from a rather Machiavellian perspective--sometimes actively rooting against the teams whose players include important national team contributors--and as such, I had one thought as Evgeni Malkin's 1-0 goal slithered past a goaltender who's more or less been left to his devices in Henrik Lunqvist:
"[Team Sweden coach and GM] Par Marts must be watching this game thinking, 'I can get Henke to Minsk by Sunday!'"
The Penguins defeated Lundqvist's Rangers 4-2, taking a 3-games-to-none series lead, and while the Penguins lost Brooks Orpik's services, the Rangers' combination of struggling stars on offense and a sometimes-shaky defense reminds me of--dare I say it?--the Wings-Bruins series.
It's not that the Rangers, top-heavy as they might be, are a bad team by any stretch of the imagination: Alain Vigneault's done a fine job of building a Rangers team that was little more than whatever John Tortorella wanted it to be, but it's going to take more than a year to get those superstars (as the Hockey News's Ken Campbell noted, the Rangers are so top-heavy that there are some difficult decisions to be made).
The Rangers have simply run into a team that is largely healthy and is running on all cylinders, and they're also running into a team that seems to have been built to defeat the Rangers in April.
There's no shame in being swept, which is probably what will happen on Saturday; there's shame in fucking up the program along the way, and while the Rangers are indeed more than a little overly reliant upon a bunch of superstars who've gone quiet at the same time, their future isn't anything less than bright.
Still, the Penguins rolled over the Rangers on Wednesday, and the AP's recap's as good as any:
"We know they are going to be desperate," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "They have a lot of depth, and a lot of guys that can create things, so we have to have the same mentality that we had."
The Penguins turned a tied series into a 3-1 lead at the Garden, where they have won seven of nine and are 12-4 since Dan Bylsma became their coach. Overall, Pittsburgh is 19-5 against the Rangers in the playoffs and 9-2 in New York.
"This is one of the best places to come in and play," Bylsma said. "It's a great building and we seem to always have a rivalry with the Rangers, so we don't need that motivation for the playoffs. I don't have a good recipe for you."
A good start certainly helped.
Evgeni Malkin scored 2:31 in, and Jussi Jokinen made it 3-1 at 7:02 of the third before the teams traded late goals. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 13 shots.
The only negative for the Penguins was that Fleury allowed a goal for the first time in three games. Carl Hagelin's tying tally in the second period was the Rangers' first goal in 145 minutes, 30 seconds of playing time.
The AP's recap continues, and here's the NHL's game highlight-recap-thing:
This was the Rangers' highlight of the night: