The Carolina Hurricanes will face the New York Rangers in the 2nd round of the playoffs, what makes the Rangers a dangerous opponent?
The Hurricanes handled business against the Boston Bruins in round one, after exercising some old demons, Carolina will have another opportunity to get revenge against a team that has dominated them consistently up until the 2020 season.
While the Canes have won against the Rangers more in the past three seasons, including a 3-0 series victory in the play-in round against their familiar foe. New York cannot be taken lightly this time around.
What makes the Rangers a dangerous team going into round two?
Their top-end talent
While New York’s depth may have some question marks, their top-end talent is some of the best in the NHL. Chris Kreider was one of the best goal scorers in the NHL this season, potting 52 goals in the regular season. Mika Zibenajad has one of the best shots in the league. And they have two of the best playmakers in the NHL, Adam Fox, and Artemi Panarin.
Players like Andrew Copp, Ryan Lindgren, Ryan Strome, and Frank Vatrano fit very nicely next to these 4 stars. The Bruins have their fearsome trio of forwards, and they are some of the best players in the NHL. However, the Rangers have as good of top-end talent as the Bruins. Jordan Jordan Staal, Brett Pesce, and Brady Skjei will once again be asked to do to these stars exactly what they did to Bergeron’s line in the first round.
A lethal power-play
The five-man unit of Fox, Kreider, Panarin, Strome, and Zibenajed runs one of the best, if not the best power-play in the NHL. Leading the Rangers to a 25.23 man-advantage percentage in the regular season, and 31.6 percent in their series against Pittsburgh.
Carolina will need to stay out of the box as they did for the most part during games 5, 6, and 7 against Boston. And when penalties do happen, they will need Raanta or whoever else is in the net to be on their game.
The Rangers came back from deficits in all of the last three games against Pittsburgh to win the series. They have the most comeback wins in the NHL this season. Head Coach Gerard Gallant’s ability to get his players to play at a high level when down is impressive.
Carolina scored first in 6 of the 7 games against Boston in round one. Even with the advantage of scoring first, Carolina lost two of those games because of poor discipline and sloppy play, the Rangers will be an even tougher team to shut down with a lead than the Bruins were.
The Canes’ aggressive style is what makes them a great team, however, they must play a structured game if and when they have leads late in games against the Rangers.
The Rangers faithful have been spoiled by elite goaltending since Henrik Lundqvist entered the league, and they have yet another elite goaltender tending the net in Igor Shesterkin.
The Vezina and Hart Trophy finalist has held, and even borderline carried the Rangers in games this season. Shesterkin struggled statistically on the surface against Pittsburgh with a 3.66 GAA, a .910 SV percentage, and being pulled in the middle of two games. But he held his team in game 1, and in-game 7 he made phenomenal saves to keep the game within reach.
Carolina will have to pepper Shesterkin with shots on a consistent basis to wear him down over the course of the series, and they must not get frustrated if Shesterkin steals a game or two for New York. If they do get flustered, that will lead to the Russian superstar having an easier time against a team facing a mental block when shooting the puck.
At the end of the day, the Canes are a better team top to bottom than the Rangers, but this New York team is tough and determined, and they have the goaltending and top-end talent to beat Carolina in the series if the Canes are not playing at their best.