Exploiting the Rangers’ Hydra to Hurricanes Playoff Success

The Carolina Hurricanes face the New York Rangers in the play-in round.

The New York Ranger’s goalie situation started off as a curious dilemma but has the potential to become a problem for the Rangers which will benefit the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If I was versed in the art of photoshop, I would photoshop the Rangers’ goalie trio on the heads of the Hydra. Lundqvist matches up nicely with the immortal head of the beast, while his rookie crease mates flank him on either side. Here, a Captain American figure such as Jaccob Slavin would be the downfall of the creature.

Mixed metaphors aside, the Hurricanes do have an opportunity to use the Ranger’s goalie arrangement to their advantage. It’s hard to imagine the three goalie scenario working for the Rangers much longer, and the Hurricanes should use this to their advantage.

Blueshirt Banter called the Ranger’s goalie situation an “awkward Cerebrus”, and it’s hard to find a more fitting description.  Living legend Henrik Lundqvist is flanked by rookie netminders Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, and the team has internally battled to create the proper rotation.

On Sirius XM radio, Head Coach David Quinn admitted “I’m sure I made mistakes along the way handling the situation,” he explained. “I certainly didn’t do it intentionally, but I’ve gotta give all these guys a ton of credit.”

On paper, the Rangers have handled the situation well. However, while Shesterkin and Georgiev have put up impressive stats, Lundqvist has not only received fewer starts but also sits at a .905 save percentage which is below the average of both rookie goaltenders.

Based on this example, it’s not hard to see why teams don’t follow a three goalie rotation. Despite the skill level of each player, one goalie will see fewer starts and as a result accumulate more rink rust over time.

 

While the Rangers have made it through the regular season with this arrangement, the playoffs will present the franchise with a difficult scenario. Do they start Lundqvist, who has an abundance of playoff experience but has struggled the last half of the season? Or do they start one of two rookies with impressive regular seasons but no playoff experience?

How can the Carolina Hurricanes exploit this situation for a quick trip through the first round? I am glad you asked faithful reader.

If Lundqvist starts, which I still see as highly likely due to his playoff experience despite his shortage of starts the last half of the season, the Hurricanes should overwhelm the veteran netminder with shots. This strategy will ensure that he does not have time to settle into his game.

If Shesterkin or Georgiev get the start in net, the Hurricanes should pursue a similar strategy to exploit the rookies’ lack of playoff experience. Within reason, shoot the puck as often as possible and avoid any fancy handling initially that players like Teuvo Teravainen are known for. It can only take one game for a rookie in the playoffs to lose confidence.

The Hurricanes won’t be able to rely on the advantage of a boisterous crowd to rattle a rookie goaltender. They can, however, rely on superior speed and aggressive forechecking that the team was known to excel at during the regular season. This will keep pressure on the rookie goaltender and open up more of an opportunity for mistakes to be made in the crease.

As I wrote about in a previous article, the Hurricane’s offense is hungry and several players such as Justin Williams have shown initiative and helped struggling lines to produce points in the final games of the regular season. This trend must continue against the Rangers, whether it be Georgiev or Shesterkin should they start in place of Lundqvist.

The Hurricanes have months of potential time to prepare for their matchup against the Rangers. By capitalizing on shot output and an aggressive forecheck that highlighted their best games of the season, the Hurricanes can use the Rangers’ goalie trio to their advantage.

Next: Carolina Hurricanes: Eight Defenders Deep, Who Sits Out?