After a tight fight in the first game, the Penguins have blanked the Rangers to take a definitive lead in the conference semi-finals and it’s virtually impossible to bet against Sidney Crosby’s crew in NHL playoff free picks. There is, however, a ton of backers choosing to side with the home team because Madison Square Garden that loves their hockey. The volume will be tremendous from the home crowd.
The volume in terms of shooting is what’s alarming about this series. Marc Andre-Fleury, who has stepped out from that dark cloud last year’s post season created, has turned away 81-of-84 shots and was peppered with 35 in Monday’s game alone. Fleury is helped by a stiff defense, but he’s been standing on his head compared to the work load his opposite has been dealing with.
By comparison, Henrik Lundqvist has faced 86 shots through this series but in Game 3 he allowed two goals on just 15 shots against. In the game before, he gave up two shots on 34 saves. Lundqvist may be one of the best goalies in the playoffs, but he’s been a go-against in NHL playoff free picks for years because of his post season inconsistency.
The difference between Lundqvist and Fleury is pretty simple from a distance. When Fleury stinks, he reeks for these long stretches. Lundqvist is a veteran that can sometimes shake the spell from a bad outing, but sometimes has rough back-to-backs. The Swede is more of a game-by-game up and downer compared to Fleury.
The fact remains that the Rangers haven’t found a way to beat Fleury between the posts despite a heavy dose of volume. People may focus on Sidney’s inability to score in the playoffs, but he also creates a ton of opportunities for his teammates simply by drawing so much attention. The Rangers might want to revisit their strategy regarding the world’s best player. Jussi Jokinin has 8 shots on net, 2 goals and an assist so far. He’s ripping New York to shreds in the open ice.
I truly had higher expectations for this series, but New York is playing a fragmented style. They don’t have the smooth, seamless team chemistry that the Penguins boast after years of playing together. The familiarity between the skaters, and Fleury’s solid head space right now, make the Penguins a no-brainer in NHL Playoff free picks.