The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers didn’t have an easy time in the first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs. After a tough opening matchup, both teams have advanced and are set to meet in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Most of the advantages are on Pittsburgh’s side in Game One. The No.1 seed in the Metropolitan Division starts the series at home, where they were dominant in the regular season. Only three other teams had more home wins than Pittsburgh’s 28 victories at the Consol Energy Center. The Rangers could fare better in Pittsburgh than most of the Penguins’ opponents, considering they led the East with 25 road victories.
After a tough first-round series, New York didn’t get much rest before Game One. The Rangers have just one day in between contests, after facing the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Penguins have been off since Monday.
The series will be highlighted by the best player in hockey. Sidney Crosby led the league with 104 points and is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy. Despite finishing the regular season with 36 goals scored, good for seventh in the NHL, he was held without a goal in the first round. He’s been held scoreless in 11 consecutive playoff games.
The Rangers are hoping that history does not repeat itself. Pittsburgh is perfect against New York in the playoffs, winning all four of their series. The Penguins are 16-4 in all-time postseason games against the Rangers.
Pittsburgh finished the regular season with 16 more points than the Columbus Blue Jackets, but you might not know it from watching their matchup. The Penguins needed six games to advance. Five of the contests were one-goal games, and two of them went to overtime.
New York might have had the toughest series of any team that made it to the second round. The Flyers took them to the brink, forcing a Game Seven at Madison Square Garden. In the deciding contest, the Rangers won by a single goal and held off Philadelphia in the final seconds. The two teams alternated victories throughout the series.
The Penguins are the favorites at Las Vegas casinos, with their odds listed at -155. The Rangers come in at +135. Since the betting line first opened, the odds have moved in favor of New York
The NBC Sports Network will broadcast the game nationally at 7 p.m. ET. Viewers can watch a free live stream online with NBC Sports Live Extra.
After a grueling first-round series, it will be tough for the Rangers to win in Pittsburgh, after such a quick turnaround. Even if Crosby doesn’t break his scoreless streak, New York still has to worry about Evgeni Malkin, who registered a hat trick in the Penguins’ clincher against the Blue Jackets. The Rangers haven’t scored more than two goals in three of their last four games, and they’ll need a big offensive performance to steal Game One.
Penguins 4, Rangers 2