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NHL Playoffs: Penguins/Rangers series preview from the New York perspective

We catch up with our friends at Blue Shirt Banter to get the 4-1-1 about the N-Y-R.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Big thanks to Mike at Blueshirt Banter for doing an exchange with us, to bring our readers some questions we wanted him to answer about the New York Rangers as the playoff series with the Penguins is about to begin.

If you would like to see the questions that he wanted me to answer about the Pens, well you're in luck, you can find that right here.

Let's jump into this!

#1: There's not a lot of secrets between divisional rivals that played each other last season, but among fans what is one thing that Pens fans should watch out for among the Rangers? Any hidden or interesting insight for if NYR might have a good or bad game? Any players under the radar to keep an eye on?

As you guys probably know all too well, when Tanner Glass is on the ice for the Rangers things can (and often will) go poorly for the Blueshirts. Thankfully, Glass is on the fourth line and is only sparingly used on the penalty kill, but there's no escaping the fact that he is a severe detriment to the team's ability to win games. Rangers fans have had more than they can take of the Tanner Glass discussion, but the bottom line is that when he is on the ice good things very rarely happen for the Rangers.
Throughout the season the Rangers have had some issues with big, physical teams like the Bruins, which has led some to question the club's toughness. Size and physicality might be a weakness of the club, but there are very few teams that are as fast as the Rangers are and very few teams that score at the rate the Rangers do at even strength. If the Rangers are controlling the tempo and getting odd-man rushes with consistency, they'll likely find a way to have more goals than the opposing team by the time the third period ends.
Kevin Hayes, the club's rookie third line center, is a player I'd keep an eye on if I was trying to find a way to shut down the Rangers. Admittedly, Hayes is a nightmare on the faceoff dot (as are pretty much all the other Rangers' centers not named Dominic Moore) but his size, patience with the puck, and vision make him a player that can turn the tide. The Rangers' third line might be young, but it will often find a way to keep the puck deep and turn the momentum of the game.

#2: A hot topic among Penguin fans is trading of young players and 1st round picks for NHL talent. The Rangers have done this a lot too in recent years to acquire guys like Rick Nash, Marty St. Louis and Keith Yandle. What's your sense in trading valuable futures for a strong team now? Do you think the Rangers are finding the right balance at this point?

Trading picks and prospects for known commodities is something that almost every highly competitive team has done and will do. Stealing from tomorrow's potential to do what you can to help achieve and create success today is not an awful thing to do, but it must be done in moderation... and you have to make sure that it's worth it. In the Rangers case, the three blockbuster trades you alluded to have all worked out pretty well for the team, although the jury is still out on what exactly the Rangers gave up to bring Nash, St. Louis, and Yandle to New York. I'm sure that if the Rangers don't win the Cup in the next two seasons Rangers fans will be looking with pained expressions on their faces wondering just how good Anthony Duclair is going to be. In fact, Rangers fans will still be doing that even if the team does win the Cup in the near future.
Glen Sather only felt comfortable moving Anthony Duclair because of what he saw in Kevin Hayes, and the Rangers sorely needed a puck moving defenseman like Keith Yandle. Right now (I reserve the right to jump ship on this statement when I have the powers of hindsight) I think that Sather has done very well with his recent big trades... I would hesitate to say the same in regards to his signings (particularly his contract extensions) though. Yikes.

#3: After going to the Stanley Cup Finals last year and winning the President's Trophy this year, what are the expectations for a successful season for the Rangers this year? Is it Cup or bust?

I hesitate to speak for the entire New York Rangers fan base, but I'd like to think that the Keith Yandle trade means that the Rangers want to win the Cup while Henrik Lundqvist is still among the best goaltenders in the league. A lot of Rangers fans and analysts firmly believe that the club will lift the Cup in "the Henrik Lundqvist Window, or that Rangers fans are going to have to wait a very long time to see it being lifted by the team's captain again.
Given some of the big names on the current roster and the big question marks with key pending UFAs and RFAs, I think plenty of Rangers fans are calling this year's playoff push a "Cup or bust" campaign. Will the Rangers be able to field a better team than this next season or the year after that? Almost certainly not. To put it simply- if it doesn't happen this season, it better happen next season.

#4: If the Penguins can do ____ they could beat the Rangers. If you were offered a lot of money, how would you most accurately fill in the blank?

My gut tells me that if the Penguins can win the special teams battle and not suffer another devastating injury in this series, they could beat the Rangers. The Rangers' power play is a bit like the Loch Ness Monster right now. Is it something to be taken seriously or is it an embarrassing and mystifying hallucination that will never, ever go away. Okay, that was a bit of a stretch... but my point is that the Penguins have a bona fide game-changing power play unit and the Rangers just don't. It's really very bad. Both teams are excellent on the penalty kill, but the Pens' power play will give the Rangers some trouble. If Marc-Andre Fleury can keep his head on straight in the series and find a way to go punch for punch with Henrik Lundqvist, this series can come down to the wire.
#5: Series prediction?

As banged up as the Penguins are they are not a team to be trifled with. Without Letang and his ability to move the puck I think the Penguins are going to be in a lot of trouble, but I still see this series going to six games. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are two of the best players in the world and either one of them can take over a game or even a series if they get into their groove. The Rangers' home ice advantage, the holes in the Pens' lineup, and the recent outstanding play of the Blueshirts should result in the Rangers besting the Penguins in the series... but it isn't going to be easy. Thankfully, it will also be plenty of fun to watch. Enjoy the 2015 Playoffs guys. Let's go hockey.

Thanks again to Mike and be sure to check him and his compadres out at Blueshirt Banter, of course remember to be polite and non-troll baiting on their turf, just as we don't like those types of people here.