The Penguins have been here many times before. 15 consecutive times to be exact. So they're probably not scared.
But they should be.
Igor Shesterkin is about to be their boogeyman. The usually cool, calm & collected Shesty made it a point to say "goodbye for now" a few weeks ago after he posted a 30-save shutout for the Rangers third straight win over Pittsburgh. Ordinarily a machine on the ice, the Pens managed to wake up a mean streak in this year's Vezina favorite and make no mistake about it - they're gonna regret it.
Igor has plenty of help. Zibanejad, Kreider, Panarin, Copp Strome & Goodrow all set offensive career-highs up front. On the back end, Fox set his own career highs alongside an always steady Lindgren while Trouba had his best all-around year & Miller has turned into a defensive dynamo. Both pairs finished first and third in time on ice together among all duos in the league and are a big reason why the Rangers had such a consistent, successful season.
Still, in the end it's Shesterkin who's the unquestioned MVP of this squad and arguably across the entire NHL. The man who's seamlessly filled a monstrous void left by HOFer Henrik Lundkvist & finished the year with the third-highest save percentage in history among goalies with at least 50 starts despite league scoring being way up. Now, in his playoff debut, he faces the opponent who decided to put themselves in his mental crosshairs.
Bad idea…especially when you're countering with Casey DeSmith.
Game 1 is huge for the Rangers. With their lack of experience, it's crucial for them not to throw themselves into adversity right off the bat despite their propensity to bounce back from losses all year. They've got a lot of guys in the peaks of their careers who've been chomping at the bit for this moment and I expect them to come out flying. If all else fails though, Shesterkin will throw his teammates on his shoulders and wave "bye bye" with an early series lead.
VIVA LA BLUESHIRTS!!!