Gerard Gallant’s message to his New York Rangers has been the same since the start of the year. Now with the playoffs set to begin for New York on Tuesday, it’s no surprise that the Rangers bench boss isn’t changing up his message.
The Blue Shirts are set to face a Pittsburgh Penguins team that certainly has the offensive weaponry to give the Rangers a hard time in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With names like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzal and others, it would be easy for the Rangers to get caught up in worrying too much about what their opponent might do.
Instead, Gallant is leaning on his tried and true message: Worry about the Rangers and not about the opponent.
“That’s the way I coach,” Gallant said after practice on Monday. “I worry about what our team can do against the other team. I know they got great players, they got star players. Every team has some great players. Sidney Crosby and Malkin and (Kris) Letang are a different animal. We all know that, but if you’re going to worry about them then your probably not going to play our game the way I want us to play our game.
“Be aware when they’re on the ice and manage the puck better when they’re on the ice. Stuff like that, but it’s about what we’re going to do.”
The New York Rangers have a number of weapons of their own, including 50-goal scorer Chris Kreider, Mika Zabinijad, Artemi Panarin and goaltender Igor Shesterkin. New York also owns one of the most potent power-play units in the NHL, which finished the regular season ranked fourth.
That’s better than what the Penguins finished the year at, although Pittsburgh has the league’s third-best penalty kill operating at 84.4%.
“It’s always going to be more difficult to score power-play goals in the playoffs,” said Kreider, who scored 26 goals on the man-advantage this season. “Ice gets chopped up a little quicker, building gets a little warmer. Teams seem to pressure that much harder and vice versa. It’s just about keeping it simple and adding value, but obviously, there’s some things that allowed us to have some success this year that we have to lean on over the course of the series.”
Ultimately playoff games are won and lost during five-on-five, play and the Rangers know that they’ll need to be sharp against a team like the Penguins. Pittsburgh is a strong defensive team at even strength and allowed the fifth-fewest goals against per game this season.
This means the New York Rangers will need to capitalize on the chances that they’re given when they present themselves.
For more Rangers news, visit AMNY.com
All of that makes the message that Gallant has echoed all season that much more important heading into Game 1 on Tuesday. For Kreider, the only way to have any postseason success is through just focusing on the Rangers’ game.
“I think it’s incredibly important,” Kreider said. “The only way you’re going to have sustained success is worrying about your own game or your own process. Trying to put your best foot forward as a team and as a player.”
Alexis Lafrenière added: “That’s what we can control really, how we prepare and the way we’re going to show up. We know they’re a really good team and we’re a good team too, so it should be a really good matchup.”