Breaking Down a Potential Rangers-Hurricanes Playoff Series

Sean Hartnett
May 26, 2020 - 11:45 am
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The matchup of the Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes in a 24-team proposed playoff format would make for an intriguing series for a variety of reasons.

Judging from social media buzz, Rangers fans are feeling confident after drawing the Canes in a best-of-five series. The Rangers swept the season series, 4-0-0. New York won these contests in convincing style, outscoring Carolina, 17-9.

Let’s take a deeper look at how the Rangers and Canes compare.

KEY MEN DELIVERED FOR RANGERS IN REGULAR SEASON MEETINGS

Hart Trophy candidate Artemi Panarin recorded three goals and six assists in four games against the Hurricanes. Center Mika Zibanejad registered four goals and three assists against the Canes. When the teams last met on Feb. 21 at PNC Arena, the Rangers cruised to a 5-2 victory and Zibanejad tallied three points.

TOP LINE TRIO LEADS THE WAY FOR CANES

The Rangers will have their hands full when Carolina’s first line of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen are on the ice. The trio each recorded over 60 points and 17 power play points or above. Carolina owns a 22.3 percent, eighth-ranked power play – just a notch below the seven-placed Rangers’ 22.9 percent power play.

WHO’S IN NET?

It’s possible that the Rangers could lean on the experience of Henrik Lundqvist. The 38-year-old netminder helped the Blueshirts earn three of four wins against Carolina, logging an exceptional .947 save percentage. Lundqvist is a career 61-65 playoff goaltender with a .922 save percentage.

Rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin made 27 saves on 29 shots against (.931 save percentage) in the Rangers’ aforementioned victory over Carolina on Feb. 21. Shesterkin has performed incredibly well through his first 12 games of NHL action – posting a 10-2-0 record and a .932 save percentage. I don’t think that the Rangers will allow sentimentality for Lundqvist’s past playoff achievements to override the sparkling play of Shesterkin that earned the young Russian the starter’s net.

The Hurricanes will have to make a tough choice between Petr Mrazek and James Reimer. Though Mrazek has seen more action (40 games, .905 save percentage), Reimer has posted a strong save percentage of .914 in 25 games.

Both goaltenders struggled against the Blueshirts this season. Mrazek registered a .872 save percentage in three starts against the Rangers, while Reimer surrendered five goals against on 24 shots to the tune of a .792 save percentage.

FOX READY FOR PLAYOFF PRESSURE

Adam Fox enjoyed a splendid rookie season, registering 42 points (eight goals, 34 assists) in 70 games. His fast adaptation from the NCAA to the NHL is proof of his poise and ability to handle pressure. Fox scored two goals and logged an assist in four meetings against Carolina — the team that once owned his rights.

SKJEI HELLO

The series would mark a return for former Ranger Brady Skjei, who was traded to Carolina on Feb. 24 for a 2020 first-round pick. Skjei struggled to replicate his early promise following his 39-point rookie campaign of 2016-17.

Since arriving in Carolina, Skjei has played a top-four role and moved over the right side of defense. The 26-year-old blue liner has recorded one point in seven games for the Canes. He’ll be playing with a point to prove after the Rangers got out from under his $5.25 million annual contract.

LEMIEUX STILL AWAITING DISCIPLINE

Agitating wing Brendan Lemieux will be serving a suspension once the series begins. The NHL is yet to announce his punishment following an elbowing incident against the Colorado Avalanche on Mar. 11. Given Lemieux’s prior history, it’s possible that he could miss two-to-three games.

CAROLINA BLUE LINE INJURIES WILL BE A FACTOR

Key Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton has been skating for four weeks in recovery from a fractured left fibula suffered on Jan. 16. How quickly Hamilton and Sami Vatanen (day-to-day, lower body) return to full speed could determine the series. Carolina will be without Brett Pesce, who underwent season-ending right shoulder surgery.

The Canes tied for 11th overall with 2.84 goals against per game and their 84 percent penalty kill was fourth-best in the NHL.

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