Rangers don’t have to worry about Sidney Crosby

The Penguins and their 16 straight playoff appearances – which include, but shouldn’t include, their elimination from the qualifying round in the 2020 bubble playoffs – are a mentally daunting challenge, but the Rangers can only look after themselves.

That’s been Gerard Gallant’s message since Day 1 of training camp, and the Rangers head coach is still preaching it to his team heading into Game 1 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh and its Big 3 of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang will do what they do. Gallant believes the key for the Rangers is to control what they can control.

“We all know what kind of player he is, but if we’re worried about Sidney then we’re going to have a hard time,” Gallant said after Monday’s practice at the MSG Training Center. “I want us to play like the New York Rangers play. We have to worry about our team more than the other team. We have to think [about] which we will do more than the other team. When we start worrying about the other team, what they’re going to do to us, and you’re behind the eight and hesitating on the ice. We have to play our game.

“That’s what I’m most worried about: we’re playing our game at the highest level we play, with good pace and the way we’re playing our game.”

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant (back right) doesn't want his players to worry about Sidney Crosby.
Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant (back right) doesn’t want his players to worry about Sidney Crosby.
Jason scenes

The Rangers have long been a team that can sometimes be their own worst enemy. It’s a trait the club has started to outgrow as management emphasizes individual roles and Gallant’s ability to have short-term memories and play to their strengths.

For most of the second half of the season, Gallant found that Rangers had significantly improved their play in the defensive zone. They didn’t give up nearly as many shots or dangerous opportunities as they did earlier in the season – and that was a testament to improvements in forecheck and puck possession.

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Sydney Crosby
Sydney Crosby
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“That’s how I train,” he said. “I worry about what our team can do against the other team. I know they have great players. They have star players. Every team has some great players and Sidney Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkins and [Kris] Letang, you’re a different animal. We all know that.

“But if you’re worried about her, then we’re probably not going to play our game the way I want it to. Watch out when they’re on the ice and handle the puck better when they’re on the ice, stuff like that. But it’s about what we’re going to do.”

Gallant’s team-centric approach has resonated with his players. Alexis Lafreniere was asked if he would face Crosby in his first playoff series, and the 20-year-old admitted it was cool to face the NHLer he drew most comparisons to when he came into the league (both played for Junior Hockey League’s Quebec major Rimouski Oceanic and were first draft picks).

Lafreniere then quickly switched and repeated Gallant’s mantra, saying, “The focus is really on us and not too much on them.”

“Because that’s what we can really control,” Lafreniere said. “How we’re going to prepare and how we’re going to perform. We know they are a really good team and we are a good team too. So it should be a really good matchup and we’ll prepare as best we can and when the puck falls [Tuesday]we will try to make a good game.” Rangers don’t have to worry about Sidney Crosby


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