The second-round matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers is officially set. Both of these teams look much different than when they did battle during the 2020 playoff qualifiers in the bubble. The Canes of course easily took that series in three games but this series will not be nearly as easy. There are some things the Hurricanes MUST do in order to have success in this best-of-seven.
We can go ahead and get the easy one out of the way. The Hurricanes had a 13.9 powerplay percentage, which is twelfth among the sixteen playoff teams. Their penalty kill is average with a 79.3 percentage which is eight in the postseason. Not bad but it is a far cry from their league-best regular season penalty kill.
Throughout the series against the Bruins, the powerplay was oftentimes too stationary and failed to generate enough good chances. The Rangers are known for their elite powerplay, meaning the Hurricanes will have to at least keep pace with that unit. The Canes’ powerplay was especially brutal on the road where they only converted at a rate of 6.3%.
Winning at the Garden
PNC Arena will be rocking once again but betting on going 4-0 in that building again to win the series seems unsustainable. On the road, the Canes got outscored 14-6 by the Bruins. They simply have to get at least one win on the road, it could be the difference between a five and seven-game series.
Madison Square Garden has historically not been kind to the Canes until this regular season. The Hurricanes were able to win both games in New York and if they want to win this series they need to find a way to take that energy into the playoffs.
The Hurricanes are extremely good on home ice but there is a somewhat concerning trend when we look at their record at PNC arena over their past five non-bubble playoff series.
2022 vs BOS: 4-0
2021 vs TBL: 0-3
2021 vs NSH: 3-0
2019 vs BOS: 0-2
2019 vs NYI: 2-0
Stars delivering the goods
Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov were undoubtedly shut down by the Patrice Bergeron line. Luckily the forward depth and the backend stepped up to provide offense against the Bruins, but the Canes need more from their two stars in this series. The Rangers are built on star power, if Aho and Svechnikov can’t at least match the production of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad then this series becomes even more challenging.
Antti Raanta was spectacular against Boston but no matter what, he will not be able to out-goalie Igor Shesterkin. Shutting down the Rangers’ star-studded offense completely is unrealistic, meaning the Canes’ offense needs to hit second gear. The stars have to be able to make a bigger difference this time around.
I would argue that the Bruins were a worse matchup for the Canes than the Rangers are, but you can’t count out this New York squad. Their series against the Penguins showed that with their star-power they are never out of a game. New York was outplayed pretty much that entire series yet still, here they are. They have a very strong will to win.
The scariest thing about New York is the game-stealing ability of Igor Shesterkin. He did not have his best showing against Pittsburgh, but he still had multiple games where he was fantastic. He has been the best goalie in the world all season and can turn it on at any given moment. The only way the Rangers win this series is if he’s lights-out, which he more than likely will be.
The Hurricanes have yet another tough challenge ahead of them, but a necessary one. Carolina failed to string together consecutive series wins in their last two playoff runs. The Hurricanes can win this series if they play up to their abilities and show more consistency than they did against Boston. I for one believe they will step up when it matters most and find a way to win this series.