Note from Rossi: Jesse Marshall, a local hockey blogger, has agreed to share his unique brand of analytical insight on this blog. His contributions will appear on an as-we-think-of-it basis. Enjoy.
>> Not the Same Old Rangers
Previewing this series with advanced metrics tells us one thing about the New York Rangers – they aren’t the John Tortorella-version of seasons passed.
The Rangers can still play defense, but they’ve been doing it by keeping the puck in the offensive zone. The Rangers had a Corsi-For percentage – Corsi-For is the sum of all on ice shooting attempts – of 51.1 percent.
Driven by their top line of Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, and Derek Stepan, a trio which averaged 60 percent Corsi-For percentage and accounted for four of the Rangers 15 even-strength goals in Round 1, the Rangers are keeping the puck out of their net by playing in the opponents offensive zone.
The Penguins ended their series against Columbus with 12 goals scored at even-strength and a 54.2-percent Corsi-For. The Penguins were second in that possession-based metric behind the Minnesota Wild at 58.8 percent.
The Penguins were paced in the possession department by Sidney Crosby (61 percent) and Evgeni Malkin (57 percent). Expect one of these two centers to face the Rangers shutdown pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonough.
It was a rough first series for those two defensemen, with Corsi percentages below 50 percent and a few goals against at even-strength to boot. If McDonough is not healthy, as many reporters are suggesting, Crosby and Malkin may be able to exploit that.
The Rangers only allowed six goals at even-strength against Philadelphia, a number that was topped only by the Boston Bruins at four. However, both goaltenders for the Penguins and Rangers sport some of the best even-strength numbers in the playoffs.
Marc-Andre Fleury is third in even-strength save percentage with a .948 through the first six games. Henrik Lundqvist is directly ahead of him with a .957.
These are two teams that won their first round series via distinct puck possession advantages and extended periods of keeping the puck out of their offensive zone. For the first time in a long time, it will be the Penguins-Rangers series that is predicated on speed, skill, and the ability to extend the play offensively.
Jesse Marshall is co-founder of Faceoff-Factor, a site that breaks down the Penguins by using nontraditional methods such as the study of advanced statistics. Read his work at www.faceoff-factor.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmarshfof