The Carolina Hurricanes will have to rely on Jake Gardiner when play resumes
On September 6th, the Carolina Hurricanes signed free agent defender Jake Gardiner. Could he be the key to beating the New York Rangers?
A lot of people are not going to read this because they think Gardiner is either a horrible player or that he shouldn’t see the ice for the play-ins. I’m also aware some of you will read this thinking “Oh look it’s another article from the guy who has no idea what he’s on about”. So let’s dive into the case and you can decide if I’m a fool or not at the end.
So, we all know the strength the Carolina Hurricanes bolster on their blueline. Guys like Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin have established themselves among the best in the league. Dougie being a potential Norris candidate before his untimely injury and Jaccob Slavin winning the Langway award at the halfway point of the season for best defensive defenseman. It’s no secret they’re good.
However, I believe that the key to unlocking the Rangers fragile D core lies in the secondary scoring Carolina can get from the blueline. We all know the Canes top line will produce, but beyond that, the production gets shaky. That means someone not named Dougie has to step up on the D core and that man is Jake Gardiner.
At 6’2, 203 lbs, the Minnetonka, Minnesota native is the key to beating the Rangers. Towards the end of the regular season, we saw Gardiner start to pick it up and he quickly became a key cog in the final two games of the season. Scoring 5 points in those two games is a really good way to outline my point. If Gardiner keeps playing like he was playing, he’ll be the key to beating New York.
Gardiner has what very few D men have in the NHL, even on the loaded Carolina back end. He’s a premier puck-moving D man. His ability to pass the puck, and even his ability to shoot the puck from the backend aren’t rivaled by anyone else on the team that wasn’t in the Norris race at some point this season. That will be the key to picking the lock of the young Ranger D core.
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Guys like Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox on the New York blue line are still rookies and could be exploited by good speed and passing. It makes Gardiner that much move valuable because his ability to pick a pass out is something even the biggest Gardiner critics admit he can do very well. When you add in his ability to shoot the puck through screens and shoot for tips, he’s a nice piece to have.
A lot of people are going to be quick to point out Gardiner having a less than stellar record in elimination games, and show off how Gardiner always seems to crumble when the pressure is on. To that, he does have a history of struggling with the pressure on. Admittedly he’s not the most clutch of players. However, the good does outweigh the bad with Gardiner in this situation in my opinion.
So, as I stated earlier, Gardiner will be a large part of the Canes ability to beat the Rangers. He’s going to need to continue to create offensive chances for the forwards in the bottom nine. I don’t think it’s an unfair comment to say Gardiner is going to play a large part in getting the struggling Canes depth scoring again.
We know what Dougie can do, but if Gardiner is going to, Carolina becomes that much more difficult to beat.