The last time the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes met in the postseason was in the qualifying round of the bubble playoffs in 2020. That ended in a 3-0 sweep in the Hurricanes’ favor. During the 2021-22 season, the Canes won three of four games against the Rangers, so Carolina has some confidence coming into this one. Both of these teams went to Game 7 in the first round. The Canes took out the Bruins with four home wins, and the Rangers managed to come back to take down the Penguins after being down in the series, 3-1. Both squads have vital pieces in all facets of the game, and I am sure Rangers’ players will want a crack at Tony DeAngelo, so expect a physical and long series.
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Igor Shesterkin will be between the pipes for the Rangers, considering he is the Vezina favorite at the moment. Although he had a shaky first round against the Penguins, averaging a 3.66 goals against average, he is still ol’ reliable, considering he held a 2.07 goals against average during the 2021-22 season. Another thing pointing to an excellent performance against the Hurricanes is that Shesterkin’s save percentage increased from game to game in the entire series against the Penguins. He had a .929 save percentage in Game 7, so expect a high level of performance from Shesterkin.
Frederik Andersen missed the first round due to a lower-body injury but is expected to return for the second round against the Rangers. Anderson had a solid 2021-22 season with a 2.17 goals against average and .922 save percentage in 52 games, so if he plays, that is excellent news for Caniacs. If Andersen is a no-go, Antti Raanta and Pyotr Kochetkov will be there to back up. Raanta is next in line, and he provided some concrete goaltending for the Canes in Round 1 with a .927 save percentage in six games. So the goalie matchup will be good regardless of who the Canes can stick between the pipes.
Jaccob Slavin and DeAngelo have been awesome on the Canes’ blue line. In the 2021-22 postseason, the two lead the team with eight points apiece. These guys also bring a solid physical element to the game, along with other Carolina defensemen. On the Rangers’ blue line, the offensive contribution is somewhat similar. Although Adam Fox is not a finalist for the Norris Memorial Trophy this season, he is still an elite player with game-breaking abilities. Other blue-liners like K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba have put points up in the postseason and provided some great defense. These teams match up pretty evenly in this area of the game.
In the first round against the Boston Bruins, the Hurricanes netted five power-play goals on 36 opportunities which is not so good. The Canes allowed six goals on the penalty kill on 29 Bruins’ power plays. In the first round against the Pittsburg Penguins, the Rangers netted six goals on 19 power plays, which shows they can capitalize on the power play more than the Hurricanes. And on the penalty kill, they allowed six goals on 23 kills, which is also statistically better than the Canes. In conclusion, the Rangers seem to have the upper hand here, but you never know because both squads possess lethal stars that can capitalize on the power play.
The Rangers take the cake here on the offensive side of the game. They have studs like Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider, who performed well to start the 2021-22 postseason. Zibanejad leads the team with 11 points (three goals and eight assists), and Kreider is also off to a great postseason start with seven points (five goals and two assists). Vincent Trocheck and Teuvo Teravainen led the offense at the beginning of the postseason with seven points apiece for the Hurricanes. No surprise that Teravainen is up there to start the 2021-22 postseason, but guys like Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov (who led the team in the regular season) need to get more on the score sheet to keep up with the Rangers’ offensive stars production.
Svechnikov, Aho, and Slavin are Carolina’s game breakers. Svechnikov brings a great offensive game and a significant physical presence to the game. In round one against the Bruins, he displayed his physical ability with that massive hit on Hampus Lindholm. Aho is this team’s super-star, and his offensive ability is one to watch out for if you are the Rangers. Looking at Slavin, he had an excellent first round. Not only is he tied for points thus far in the playoffs out of anyone on the Canes, but his defensive game has also been very strong. He laid hits and provided some solid time in Carolina’s defensive zone in five-on-five play and on the penalty kill.
Panarin, Fox, and Shesterkin are the game breakers for the Rangers, which is scary if you are the Hurricanes because that covers every position. Panarin is a top-ten offensive player in the game right now. Fox is easily a top-five defenseman in the game right now. And Shesterkin is most likely going to win the Vezina. So the Rangers have elite players at all facets of the game, and their game breakers and super-stars hold the upper hand over the Hurricanes’ guys.
New York Rangers’ head coach Gerard Gallant, one of the best in the league, has continued his prosperous past this year in his first season behind the bench for the Rangers. This season, he coached the team into second place in the Metropolitan Division with a 52-24-6 record. Gallant will go into this second round with 630 games under his belt as a head coach, so there is no taking that lightly, especially with his win percentage over 500. He also won the Jack Adams Award in 2017-18 with the Vegas Golden Knights, proving how he can persuade perseverance into his team.
In his fourth season head coaching in the NHL and also heading Carolina’s bench, Rod Brind’Amour has been somewhat successful. In 2020-21, Brind’Amour received the Jack Adams Award, which only shows that he is a great leader behind the bench and a scary coach to go up against. These two coaches match up well together, but Gallant’s extended history may put him above in this category.
The Hurricanes held an edge over the Rangers in the 2021-22 regular season and also sat above them in the standings. Also, do not forget that the last time these teams met in the playoffs, the Canes blew out the Rangers in the bubble in 2020. The Rangers also have a better roster when looking into the depth players, but you never know because it is playoffs. Despite that, it will be a very competitive matchup based on where both teams stand this season.
The Hurricanes have the home advantage, with the majority of the home games, and Canes’ fans are nuts at a home playoff game, and it was easy to see that in the first round. However, I think Madison Square Garden’s atmosphere is very similar, if not the same. Regardless of all that, this series will be a hard-fought, physical, and exciting one to watch.
Series Prediction: New York 4-3
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