2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1
In a battle between two divisional opponents, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers are set to begin the cup chase on Wednesday night.
During the regular season, the Penguins took the final three games of a four-game series, all of which took place in the month of February or later. But with Marc-Andre Fleury being a game-time decision for the first game of the series (concussion), it may allow the Rangers an advantage as the playoffs get underway.
When Fleury does return, he will have to prove himself out of the gate once again. Even though his numbers in last year’s postseason appearance against the Rangers, which included a .927 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.12 (his lowest GAA in the playoffs since 2008), New York prevailed in a series that lasted just five games.
On the opposing side, Henrik Lundqvist enters the playoffs with 35 regular season wins and a .920 save percentage, and he expects a big challenge in the first round.
“By now you know this building, you know how to prepare going [to Consol Energy Center] and play this team. It’s a really good challenge for us, they’re a great team,” Lundqvist said of the Penguins in an interview.
Lundqvist will have offensive help in Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard, and Derek Stepan, all 50-point scorers in the regular season, to do work on the other side of the ice.
In a series that ramps up towards the final half of the schedule, it will be an ultimate test of consistency and strength that will determine who will move on to the next round. For the team that does manage to play hockey in May, the road will not get any easier, as the winner of the series between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers will be awaiting them.