For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL.com has enlisted the help of former NHL assistant coach Gord Murphy to break down the action. Murphy will be checking in throughout the series.
Murphy enjoyed a 14-season career as an NHL defenseman before spending seven seasons as an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets and most recently serving as an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers.
After watching four games of the Eastern Conference Second Round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, longtime NHL assistant coach Gord Murphy said the most impressive part of the series has been how the Penguins have used speed to their advantage against a Rangers team that is starting to look fatigued.
The Penguins have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 5 is Friday at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"The most impressive part of the Penguins' play is their tempo and pace of play, and their compete level," Murphy told NHL.com. "They are playing at a very high pace and compete level led by their captain, Sidney Crosby."
While Crosby gets most of the attention, it's been another Penguins player that has stood out to Murphy, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury had back-to-back shutouts in Games 2 and 3 and a 145:30 shutout streak that carried into the second period of Game 4. It's been enough to quiet Fleury's critics after the Pittsburgh goaltender had a few forgettable playoff runs.
"Fleury has done enough in these playoffs and throughout his career that should silence the critics, but probably won't until he wins another [Stanley] Cup," Murphy said. "He has earned the respect throughout the League as a world-class goaltender."
While the Penguins have shined, Murphy sees the Rangers' inability to solve Fleury or keep up with the pace due in part to fatigue from having gone seven games in the first round and playing two sets of back-to-back games in their first 11.
"It has been a tough stretch for the Rangers," Murphy said. "The last couple of games they have shown signs of fatigue with lack of execution and decision making."
Nowhere is that more evident than on the power play, where the Rangers are 0-for-36, tying a League playoff record for futility. New York last scored with the man-advantage in Game 2 of the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers.
"The Rangers' power-play drought is a combination of the Penguins' excellent penalty kill, goaltending from Fleury and lack of execution from the Rangers," Murphy said. "They are having a difficult time on entries and have been unable to get much zone time. Once they are set up, Pittsburgh's penalty killers are doing an excellent job of fronting and blocking shots, keeping the Rangers to the perimeter. And when a shot does get through, Fleury has made the saves and controlled rebounds. There have not been many secondary opportunities for the Rangers' power play from plays to the net."
Murphy isn't ready to give up on New York yet, and a big factor in Game 5 could be Rick Nash. Murphy was an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets during Nash's first seven NHL seasons.
Nash leads the League with 45 shots on goal but has zero goals and four assists in the 2014 playoffs. He doesn't have a point in eight games.
"Rick Nash is a world-class player that does not get enough credit for his all-around game," Murphy said. "In terms of his offensive production, play to his strengths using his size, strength, reach and great release driving the net off the rush, bring the puck off the wall strong on the cycle, and either shoot quick or take it to the net himself, keeping him closer to the net in the offensive zone."
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