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Rangers vs. Penguins: 3 things to know about First Round series

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs upon us, Pro Hockey Talk's Sean Leahy previews the Eastern Conference bracket, from the Lightning's quest for a three-peat to the Maple Leafs looking to exorcise half a century of demons.

The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs began on Monday, May 2. Today, we preview the series between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Rangers vs. Penguins schedule

Game 1: May 3, 7 p.m. ET – Penguins at Rangers (ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 2: May 5, 7 p.m. ET – Penguins at Rangers (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 3: May 7, 7 p.m. ET – Rangers at Penguins (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 9, 7 p.m. ET – Rangers at Penguins (ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 11, TBD – Penguins at Rangers (TBD)
*Game 6: May 13, TBD – Rangers at Penguins (TBD)
*Game 7: May 15, TBD – Penguins at Rangers (TBD)

1. The Tristan Jarry and goaltending question for Pittsburgh

Goaltending was always going to be one of the biggest question marks for the Penguins this season. Tristan Jarry had a dreadful showing in the playoffs a year ago, and instead of replacing him or making significant changes to the position the Penguins came back with the same goalie duo of Jarry and Casey DeSmith. For the most part it has been a strong decision. Jarry bounced back with an All-Star caliber season (his second All-Star game appearance) and was one of the better, more productive goalies in the league this season.

But now he is injured with no timetable for his return, other than the fact head coach Mike Sullivan said he is expected to miss at least the first couple games of the series.

DeSmith has had an up-and-down season as the Penguins’ backup and it makes the position a massive question mark again going into this series.

With Igor Shesterkin at the other end of the ice the Rangers have a substantial goaltending advantage on paper.

2. Rangers had the Penguins number in the second half

The Penguins won the first head-to-head meeting this season, taking a 1-0 game back in February that was highlighted by a sensational game from Jarry.

The Rangers won the next three meetings very, very decisively. The Penguins kept them close from an underlying numbers perspective, but goaltending was a significant factor in each meeting. That is why the Jarry injury is so significant.

Pittsburgh also had some significant absences in some of those later games (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each missed one of the games), but the Rangers have been the better team over the past couple of months overall and definitely in the head-to-head meetings. We will see how that translates over to the playoffs.

3. Rangers trade deadline acquisitions are significant

One of the reasons the Rangers have been better in the second half: Their trade deadline additions.

The Rangers already had some top-line core players with Shesterkin, Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and Adam Fox leading the way. But they still needed some improved complementary pieces, and they addressed that in a significant way at the trade deadline with the additions of Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, Tyler Motte, and Justin Braun. All of them have made a significant impact in the second half, and especially against the Penguins where Vatrano has had their number for years.

While they are using Vatrano and Copp in their top-six instead of the bottom-six, they have made those already good lines even better.

Prediction: Rangers win it in seven games.