For additional insight into the Eastern Conference First Round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Craig Berube to break down the action. Berube will be checking in throughout the series.
Berube, 50, was coach of the Philadelphia Flyers from 2013-15. He was a Flyers assistant for six seasons before being promoted on Oct. 7, 2013. The Flyers were 75-58-28 under Berube. They made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and lost to the Rangers in the first round in 2014.
The final score wasn't indicative of how the game went, but the 5-2 win does show what the Pittsburgh Penguins are capable of doing against the New York Rangers or any team in the NHL.
That's how former Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig Berube felt as he was watching the Penguins defeat the Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round series Wednesday.
Berube said he felt the Rangers were dominant at the start and for the most part kept up with the Penguins throughout the game, except when they made poor decisions with the puck at the offensive blue line.
Video: NYR@PIT, Gm1: Crosby goes top-shelf to beat Raanta
When that happened, the Penguins took advantage, such as when Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi shot the puck into forward Patric Hornqvist in the middle instead of sending the puck down the wall late in the second period. Hornqvist blocked the shot and sprung Sidney Crosby for a breakaway because the Penguins captain got out of the zone quickly and well behind the Rangers defense.
"The Penguins had 22 blocked shots in the game, so I didn't think the Rangers [defense] did a good enough job getting pucks by the defenders," Berube said. "They let them block the shots, which ended up causing them a couple goals. They have to do a better job with that."
That's also an adjustment Rangers coach Alain Vigneault talked about Thursday, specifically referencing Girardi's mistake. Game 2 is at Consol Energy Center on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
"The Penguins are all coming out and challenging and blocking everything," Berube said, "so the Rangers have to come up with a better plan, maybe move the puck better, the [defense] move, get pucks through, miss the net on purpose, let it bank off the boards. They need to get some things like that because they can't keep letting the Penguins block all these shots and not get enough pucks through.
"And just be maybe more patient in the offensive zone. Don't be in such a rush. The [defensemen] can move it back down the wall to a winger or the centerman, move it around, control the play a little bit more. The Penguins have great speed, and you know they're going to be an opportunistic team with their speed, so you have to make sure you make good decisions with the puck all the time."
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While praising the Penguins' opportunism, Berube said he didn't think they were at their best in Game 1.
"I didn't see the same team I saw on that run that they went on at the end of the season," he said. "I thought the Rangers did a good job in a lot of areas."
Berube said the Rangers neutralized the Penguins' possession game by being hard on their defensemen and physical along the walls, and occupying passing and shooting lanes.
"I've seen the Penguins where they really control a lot of the game in the offensive zone and I didn't see a lot of that," Berube said. "I expect the Penguins to pick up that area of their game."
Which should give the Rangers more incentive to be smarter and harder to play against in the offensive zone, Berube said. In addition to making better decisions with the puck at the blue line, Berube said the Rangers need to battle harder for position in front of the Penguins net.
"You [have to] get dirty goals in the playoffs and they didn't get enough [Wednesday] night," Berube said. "They need to do a better job around the net, screening the goalie, getting there and just being harder for rebounds and things like that. That's what they're going to have to do to score."
Video: NYR@PIT, Gm1: Lundqvist shaken up in 1st, later exits
Berube wondered about the Rangers' state of mind considering they may have to play Game 2 without goalie Henrik Lundqvist (right eye), who has started 111 consecutive playoff games for them.
Lundqvist was injured with 48.2 seconds left in the first period Wednesday, when defenseman Marc Staal's stick blade went through his mask and hit him in or near the eye. Lundqvist didn't play the second or third period and was scheduled to see a specialist Thursday to determine his availability for Game 2.
Antti Raanta will start if Lundqvist is unable to play. Raanta made 16 saves on 19 shots in relief in Game 1.
"You're talking about one of the best goalies in the National Hockey League, so that has a big effect on the team," Berube said. "That's different. He's a star and he's one of the best. We all know he's the best player on the Rangers, so it's going to be tough if he's injured."