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Rangers vs. Hurricanes second-round preview and prediction for 2024 NHL Playoffs

May 2nd, 2024

The Rangers swept the overmatched Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a nifty performance that saw them play so well they even won the game in which they sputtered for long stretches (Game 4, obvi).

Their reward is a date with perhaps the most dangerous team in the East – besides themselves, of course – that’s the Carolina Hurricanes, who dispatched the Islanders in five games in their opening series.

The Blueshirts, as winners of the Presidents’ Trophy, will have home ice advantage in the series, so Carolina will come to Madison Square Garden for the first two games. That could be a huge factor in the series – imagine the atmosphere at the Garden for a Game 7 with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals at stake? Yummy.

There’s a ways to go before that happens, stuffed with, hopefully, some dynamite playoff hockey. Here’s a look at some of the main plot points of Rangers-Hurricanes and what could tilt the series:

Who’s better, who’s best?

Special teams always looms as a potential series-decider in the playoffs and both the Rangers and Hurricanes excel on the power play and penalty kill. It was a huge advantage for the Blueshirts in the first round against the middling Caps, but Carolina’s PP and PK were even better than the Rangers’ units during the regular season, at least by statistical rankings.

The Blueshirts placed third in both categories. Carolina was first in penalty kill (86.4 percent, nearly two points better) and second in power play (26.9, a half-point ahead of New York). Both the Blueshirts (37.5 percent) and Hurricanes (33.3 percent) were terrific with a man advantage in the first round. The Rangers, however, were better on the PK (88.2 percent) than Carolina (72.7 percent) in the first round.

Any carryover there?

That’s Jake

The Rangers were interested in Jake Guentzel at the trade deadline, but the Hurricanes got him from Pittsburgh instead and he has thrived in Carolina. The winger had eight goals and 17 assists in 17 regular-season games and added a goal and three assists in the first round.

If he has a big series against the Blueshirts and Carolina advances, it’s easy to see Ranger fans grinding on the fact that the Canes traded for him and their favorite team didn’t.

In addition to Guentzel, the Rangers will have to cope with Sebastian Aho, who led Carolina with 36 goals and 89 points and Seth Jarvis (33 goals), among others, when the Canes have the puck. Jarvis had three goals and four assists in the first round.

Apr 23, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Vincent Trocheck (16) celebrates his goal against the Washington Capitals during the first period in game two of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden.

There’s some history here

The teams have met twice in the playoffs before, with the Canes sweeping the Rangers in the 2020 bubble in a best-of-five series and New York beating Carolina in seven games two years ago in the second round.

There are also some interesting links between the teams – Peter Laviolette, the coach who has gotten the Rangers this far, won his only Stanley Cup with Carolina back in 2006 when a rugged center named Rod Brind’Amour was the team’s captain. Brind’Amour, of course, is now the Carolina coach.

Chris Drury, the Rangers’ General Manager, is the uncle of Canes’ rising star center Jack Drury, who had a goal and two assists in the first round.

Vincent Trocheck played parts of three seasons in Carolina before signing with the Rangers prior to the 2022-23 campaign. Trocheck has been a huge addition, helping turn the Blueshirts into a good team on face-offs (he won 71.2 percent of his face-offs in the first round, tops in the playoffs so far) and providing scoring and sandpaper.

Trocheck, whose six points in the first round were second only to Mika Zibanejad’s seven points, is adept at getting under opponents’ skin – that’s a compliment. It’ll be interesting to see how he does it to some old mates in this series.

There are some ex-Rangers on the Canes, too, such as Tony DeAngelo and former first-round pick Brady Skjei.

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) makes a save on New York Islanders defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (41) during the third period at Madison Square GardenNew York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) makes a save on New York Islanders defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (41) during the third period at Madison Square Garden

Crease lightning

As always, the Rangers will look to flex their goalie advantage.

Igor Shesterkin was very good in the first round, making several dazzling doorstep saves against Washington and generally frustrating the Caps’ offense. He had a 1.75 goals-against average in the series and a .931 save percentage. During the regular season, Shesterkin had a 2.34 GAA against Carolina and went 2-1, including a shutout.

Frederik Andersen has started all five playoff games so far for Carolina and has sparkled (4-1, 2.25 GAA, .912 save percentage). Andersen missed a huge chunk of time this season after he was found to have a blood-clotting issue back in November. In 16 regular-season starts, Andersen was 13-2 in 16 with a 1.84 GAA.

Bread rising?

However far the Rangers go in these playoffs, Artemi Panarin’s play will be a big narrative point after he struggled in the first-round loss to the Devils last season. So far, he has two goals and an assist in four games and both of his goals proved to be game-winners.

It’s a nice start for a big-time player coming off his best regular season ever. He’s even kept up with his shoot-more approach so far, tallying 11 shots in four games, just four fewer than last year, when he had 15 in the seven games against New Jersey.

Prediction: Rangers in seven games

This ain’t the Caps. If the Rangers have any bum stretches like they did in Game 4 against Washington, they probably won’t win those particular games.

The Canes are tough on defense (2.57 goals-allowed-per-game, fourth in the NHL) and scored just one fewer goal than the high-flying, creative Rangers during the regular season.

Carolina had 12 different goal scorers in the first round, two more than the Rangers, who were widely praised for getting contributions from up and down their lines. They added valuable Cup-winning experience in Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov at the deadline and Andersen’s on a heater.

But the Rangers have Shesterkin and a soaring core of stars. There are many Blueshirts left from the last time the teams met in the playoffs. The Rangers faced elimination then and won Game 6 at home and Game 7 in Raleigh by a combined score of 11-4. They know they can beat the Canes when it counts and now Trocheck has switched to their side.

They get it done again, this time in a Game 7 at a frenzied Garden.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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