Evgeni Malkin, a leading candidate for MVP honors, had a goal and three assists in the Penguins’ 5-4 OT win at The Garden back on October 17. On December 5 in Pittsburgh, Ondrej Pavelec was brilliant in goal, facing 44 shots in a Rangers’ 4-3 win. Then on January 14, again in the Steel City, four different Penguins doubled it up in the points column and the consecutive Stanley Cup champs decisively beat the Blueshirts, 5-2.
The Rangers are returning to action after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night at home, 6-3. Lots of good things happened in this one, led by Jimmy Vesey’s first NHL hat trick. Pavel Buchnevich had three assists, which stands as the most productive game of his young career. Alexandar Georgiev stopped 41-of-44 shots to get his second NHL win.
Vesey is one goal away from matching the 16 he scored a year ago in his rookie season. Both he and Buchnevich have had their ups and downs during their respective sophomore campaigns. Rarely do career trajectories head straight up. A rookie usually comes in with very little expectations of himself and from others. Armed with some experience, it is not uncommon for a second-year guy to think that he can do it all. The player that has an extended career will learn by the experiences of a “sophomore slump” while realizing that playing in the NHL is not a bed of roses every night.
Both Vesey and Buchnevich are bright, hard-working guys and one should expect each to figure things out and go on to have a good NHL career.
Georgiev will get the start tonight as his story continues to be a good one. And through thick and thin, he may be the most important of all the stories that evolved through the trade deadline. With Henrik Lundqvist’s stated commitment to stick with the rebuild, finding a young, capable backup to ease into the program could certainly hasten the overhaul.
NHL history is littered with flash-in-the-pan goaltending heroics, so I would not want to get to far ahead of Georgiev’s NHL start. That being said, you can’t help but be impressed with his sound technique, quiet movement and confident demeanor. And to boot, according to goaltending coach Benoit Allaire, this guy works just as hard as Henrik. That says an awful lot and gives reason to be excited about what we are seeing in Alexandar Georgiev.
It will be interesting to see if the Penguins can become the first three-peat Stanley Cup champions since the great Islanders of the early ‘80s accomplished such, on their way to four-consecutive championships. With Sidney Crosby and Malkin, once again leading a deep cast of talent, I would not bet against them but there may be an issue in goal. While Matt Murray has been the lead story in the recent Cup successes, he had Marc-Andre Fleury there to bail him out when poorer play or injury was a factor. Taking nothing away from Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith, but neither player is Fleury.
It is going to be important to play with discipline in all three zones against the Penguins, whose all-world talent will make you pay for a mistake in a hurry. Particularly, in the defensive zone where the speed and skill of Pittsburgh can create all kinds of havoc.
Pittsburgh boasts the league’s top power play, clicking along at an almost 26% efficiency rate. They garner a ton of momentum off the power play, whether they score or not.
3. Work PIT Goaltender
Whether it is Casey DeSmith or Tristan Jarry, it is not Matt Murray who is on the road to recovery from a concussion issue. Make the goaltender earn his stripes and don’t make it an easy night at The Garden.