Rangers Attempt to Right the Ship vs. Defending Champs

The Rangers host the back-to-back Stanley Cup champs for the first time this season when Pittsburgh comes to Madison Square Garden.

The Blueshirts are coming off a tough 3-2 loss to the Devils in their last game to run their record to 1-5-0 in their first six games of the young season. As we have previously observed, while the remaining 76 games can create a sense of time being on one’s side it is important that the Rangers get the ship righted as quickly as possible.

[Watch Tonight’s Rangers-Penguins on MSG and Download Free on MSG GO]

An important piece moving forward will be finding the right partner for Ryan McDonagh. He will once again pair up with Anthony DeAngelo, marking his fourth partner in the team’s first six games. The No. 1 defense pairing usually then slots the other two pairs accordingly. A little bit like replacing Derek Stepan as a top-two center, finding a Dan Girardi-like partner for McDonagh may take a while.

The Penguins come to town with a 3-2-1 record and are having a little difficulty defending and finding offense beyond their top six. Not unusual issues from defending champions in the salary cap world of the NHL. Let alone one coming off back-to-back championships. GM Jim Rutherford has done a nice job re-tooling along the way in the recent past and any team that can boast Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and a healthy Kris Letang will still be a formidable opponent. The heart of this champion still beats long and loud.

[8 Facts You Need to Know For Tonight’s Game]

3 Keys to Rangers-Penguins

1. Decision Making

Most of the early-season woes have come from poor decision making, particularly with regards to what is done with the puck. The first period against the Devils was arguably the best 20 minutes of the season and was the result of good decisions with the puck.

2. Compete

When things are not going quite as well as expected it is essential to control the things that you can, primo being the compete level. Every battle must be fought with the utmost commitment. That you can control.

3. 5v5

Better decision-making and a closer to 60-minute compete level should garner better 5-on-5 play. It had better, as just two goals in 5-on-5 play in five of the first six games is not good enough.

Coverage

Kenny Albert and I will have the call tonight on WOR 710AM, with Don La Greca hosting the pregame show beginning at 6:30.

[Watch Tonight’s Rangers-Penguins on MSG and Download Free on MSG GO]

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.