Penguins Defeat Rangers 4-2 in Game 4 – Knee-Jerk Reactions

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By Joe Depto (@JoeDepto)

- New York’s offensive production continues to tailspin, but it’s not simply limited to Rick Nash’s scoreless streak continuing for yet another game. Much has been made of Nash’s inability to find the net, but Derek Stepan has just four assists since April 1st, and none of them have come against the Penguins in the current series. Martin St. Louis, whom the Rangers acquired at the 2014 trade deadline to add more punch to their lineup in big spots, has also failed to register a point in the current series against Pittsburgh. Without letting Rick Nash off the hook too much, Nash’s last goal against a 2013-14 playoff team was on February 27th. The Rangers are going to require massive production from their top six if they want to create any glimmer of hope against the Penguins moving forward.

- New York’s powerplay continues to be another layer of their undoing, despite logging more powerplay time in the 2014 postseason than other 2014 playoff team (79:57). In six minutes of powerplay time tonight, the Rangers finished with less than a shot attempt per minute of powerplay time. Combined with a shorthanded goal allowed, the Rangers have fostered a situation where the Penguins can continue to build their confidence in all phases of the game. Pittsburgh obviously can’t afford to get in the habit of taking on bad penalties (particularly those of the offensive zone variety), but the Penguins, who have been shorthanded 42 times this postseason (more than any other 2014 playoff team thus far) can now begin to build confidence and structure in their penalty kill.

- There was a great deal of discussion in regards to Kris Letang’s health before the 2014 postseason began. If Games 3 and 4 have taught us anything, it’s Letang’s value to Pittsburgh, particularly in puck possession and using high end skating technique in zone transition. Letang followed up a terrific Game 3 performance on Monday with an equally impressive one in Game 4, efficiently logging 27:56 of ice time. Letang was on the ice for more Rangers shot attempts than any other Penguin tonight and was dynamic on both ends of the ice in stick skills, positioning, and physical play. Regardless of Dan Bylsma’s plan to handle his defensive lineup moving forward (this will obviously be largely dictated by Brooks Orpik’s health), he should feel good about his top pairing of Kris Letang and Paul Martin moving forward.

- In further regards to injury reports impacting a team’s defensive lineup, the Penguins and Rangers both may need a bit more clairvoyance moving forward. Pittsburgh intended to bring Brooks Orpik back into the lineup, but he was barely able to play in Game 4, logging just 5:15 of ice time. Unless Pittsburgh is certain Orpik can skate a full sixty minutes, they would be wise to keep Robert Bortuzzo, a scratch tonight, in their starting six instead of Orpik. For New York, Ryan McDonagh logged 26:07 of ice time tonight, but he simply doesn’t look anywhere near 100% right now. McDonagh is arguably New York’s most important player past Henrik Lundqvist, but Alain Vigneault may want to keep a close eye on how many minutes McDonagh is logging if a physical impairment is preventing him from consistently giving New York the blue line presence that they need.

- Henrik Lundqivst’s 2014 playoff save percentage at even strength is 93.6%, the third best of any 2014 playoff team. His save percentage while the Rangers are shorthanded drops to 83.8%, the second-worst of any goaltender whose team has yet to be eliminated and the fourth-worst of any 2014 playoff goaltender.

- Marc-Andre Fleury continues to be solid in all phases of the game in the current postseason, but his ability to shut the door on opposing teams while the Penguins are playing well in front of him has arguably been his best contribution to Pittsburgh. His 5 on 5 save percentage while the Penguins lead is a whopping 96.7% – currently the best of any 2014 playoff team.

- The following chart displays the even strength shot attempts (fenwick). Notice the dramatic difference and sustained discrepancy between the two teams after the Rangers tied the game on Carl Hagelin’s goal early in the second period. If New York wants to win three straight against Pittsburgh, their powerplay must execute efficiently at every possible opportunity :

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- (Chart via Extra Skater)

 

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