"Throughout the game, they'll make adjustments," defenseman Ryan McDonagh told ESPN The Magazine. "Sometimes they'll bring everybody back and Malkin and Crosby will swing real low, so it's hard as a defenseman to try and get your gap. Other times, they try to sneak behind you and post up and spread you back that way."
"Collectively, as a unit of five, we have to make a good read on if they're going back. Try to move everybody up a little bit, stay in their face, so they don't make the little passes in their own zone with them kind of winding it up," McDonagh said. "They have good chemistry playing together for quite some time. They realize when to slow it down, bring it back, or try and catch us sleeping with a long stretch pass."
McDonagh, who appears to be playing hurt, is correct in that the job of slowing down Crosby's line can't fall completely on the shoulders of just the defensemen. It's going to take improved play from all five skaters on the ice. That said, his coach made it clear that the Rangers expect more out of McDonagh if they want to climb back into this series.
"Ryan hasn't had, he'd be the first to say, a playoffs to his expectations and to ours," Vigneault said. "He has an opportunity [Friday] to change that. Obviously, he hasn't played very well."
The Rangers have been physical with Crosby in this series at times, with the Penguins noticing Marc Staal's crosschecks to his head. With the desperation growing, that physical play is only going to intensify. Especially in front of Lundqvist.
"You have to make that place hard to come around," Staal told ESPN The Magazine. "Make them think twice before they come near the crease. It's not going to be any free ice. Try to do as much as you can, legally. You want to get in [Crosby's] face, try to frustrate him. Try to get under his skin if you can. That's the biggest thing."
The other big thing is preventing Crosby from entering the zone with speed. That means fewer turnovers and tightening up the defense in the neutral zone. Crosby and Malkin are going to make great individual plays on their own, the Rangers can't afford to do anything to assist them moving forward.
"You have to make them get the puck out of their hands," Staal said. "You have to make [Crosby] dump it. You have to make him go get it. If you don't do that, he's going to make plays. It's two of the best players in the world on one line. When they're going, they're tough to handle."