We’re getting closer and closer to the NHL restart and we head back east for our next preview as the 6th seeded Carolina Hurricanes take on the 11th seed New York Rangers. Two teams that had a legitimate chance at making the playoffs had Corona not ruined everything. Now, both of these teams with face-off in the qualifying round to get the opportunity to advance to the real Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two teams that are very similar in my opinion and with plenty of talent on both sides this could be one of the best series of the opening round.
Being in the same division, these two teams met four times during the course of the regular season. It was a completely one sided affair, as the Rangers picked up the 4-0 season sweep. All four games were fairly close as only one game was separated by more than two goals. The first two meeting came back in November, where the Rangers picked up a 4-2 win and a 3-2 win. The next meeting came less than a month later where the Rangers once again picked up a win, this time by the score of 5-3. The fourth and final meeting came back on February 21st as the Rangers completed the sweep with a 5-2 victory.
New York Rangers(37-28-5, 79pts)
I’ll be the first to admit I thought the Rangers were going to horrible this year, I think it was more of me hoping they would be. That wasn’t the case though as offseason addition Artemi Panarin proved to be one of the best moves of free agency. Between Panarin and the incredible season of Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers had a legit chance to make the playoffs before the pause. The biggest issue the Rangers ran into this season was the ability to stay consistent. Henrik Lundqvist is not the King he once was and in front of him their defense is not very experienced. They lucked out with a matchup against the Canes in the first round as they had great success over them all year and will look to continue that come playoff time.
The forwards of the Rangers are the strongest part of this team, the combination of Zibanejad and Panarin combined for 73 goals during the shortened season. Add that in with solid contributions from guys like Chris Kreider, Jesper Fast, and Pavel Buchnevich the Rangers have a sneaky good offense. Going up against the Hurricanes won’t be easy and they will need their high powered offense to be at full strength. One guy who could be called upon to step up is rookie Kappo Kakko.
The defense of the Rangers is hard to describe, they have good young talent in Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox. But they also have Marc Staal who plays way too many minutes for not being as good as he used to be. Jacob Trouba has been a nice addition but, I think the Rangers had expected more out of him when they brought him in. If he can pick up his play come playoffs then the move will look a lot better than it does right now. They will have a tough task going up against the speedy forwards of the Canes.
Goaltending in New York hasn’t been a problem for the last 15 years. But now, at 38 years old the so called “King” is running out of time to get the one crown that has alluded him his whole career. If Henrik Lundqvist wants to hoist the Stanley Cup before his career is over, he should’ve left New York…(I’m kidding…kind of) Lundqvist will need to play a hell of a lot better come the playoffs if he wants to have a chance at winning the Cup this year. That is if he is actually going to be the one starting the games…The Rangers have two young studs behind him that have shown they are better than Lundqvist right now. Both are hungry to earn the trust to become the new full time starter. Igor Shesterkin who is only 24 years old, posted a 10-2-0 record to go along with a 2.52GAA and a .932SV%. Yes, it was only 12 games that he played but, those are great numbers. As for the third and final goalie Alexandar Georgiev, he was the backup most of last season and played pretty well. As for this year though he struggled a bit, posting a 17-14-2 record to go with a 3.04GAA and a .910 SV%. One of these three goalies will need to step up and claim the number one spot as the Rangers look to make a surprise run at the Stanley Cup.
Carolina Hurricanes(38-25-5, 81Pts)
I still don’t understand exactly how this team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, and has been in a playoff spot most of this season. I mean honestly, I know they have a solid group of forwards and defenseman but they really came out of nowhere and don’t appear to be just a one time fluke. It wont be an easy road but they have a chance to repeat their success from last year. A solid top 9 up front to go along with a great defense, the biggest issues will be their goaltending. They will need to get past their division rivals in the qualifying round to have a chance at the Cup once again.
I believe that head coach Rod Brind’amour has a lot to do with the success, but having some of the great young talent they have really helps as well. You have all seen what Andrei Svechnikov can do with the puck on his stick(See video here) at 20 years old this kid is on his way to superstardom. Sebastian Aho, Ryan Dzingel, and Teuvo Teravainen are three more young studs on this team and can compete with any of the top offenses in the league. The Rangers defense will certainly have their hands full.
As for the defense, they made some moves to really solidify the backend as they brought in guys like Joel Edmundson, Jake Gardiner, and Brady Skjei. Last year it was one of their weaknesses and this year it looks to be one of their strengths. They also have Dougie Hamilton and Sami Vatanen, but both of those guys are on IR. We know that Hamilton should be good to go but as for Vatanen we aren’t sure if he will be back once play resumes. Fully healthy, their defense matches up well with just about anyone in the league.
I hate their goaltending, I’m just gonna come out and say it. Petr Mrazek isn’t good and I can say that with confidence because I watched him suck while he was on the Flyers. He is not a guy to lead a team to a Stanley Cup. It bothers the hell out of me seeing him have any kind of success. I’m sure he’s a great guy and all but, as a Flyers fan that has suffered through years of horrible goaltending with him being one of them, I still have hate towards him. As for the other goalie, James Reimer I don’t think he’s all that and a bag of chips either. Yes, he’s played pretty well this year but I feel like its the story of his career. He plays well for a little stretch and then just shits the bed when you need him most. Both guys also suffered injuries before the season pause which we all know led to the David Ayers story. Both guys will be fully healthy once play resumes but, I fully expect the goaltenders to be the downfall for the Canes. I also don’t think their offense will be able to score enough to keep up with other teams.
While the Canes have been the better team throughout the season record wise, I don’t think that will be the case in this series. I think the Rangers are better setup to win a series after coming off such a long layoff. I think their goaltending will be able to out duel the Hurricanes. This should be a highly entertaining series and could easily go all five games.