ForwardsPlayoffs

Rangers/Hurricanes Matchup: Forwards edge slightly to Carolina

We have less than one week until playoff hockey, and that means an in-depth analysis of how the Rangers and Hurricanes matchup, beginning with the forwards. The Rangers have one of the strongest top-six forwards in the game, but Carolina boasts strength up and down the lineup. It also helps that the Canes rounded out their top-six at the trade deadline. If there is an area where both teams are similar, this would be it.

The Top Six

The Rangers have two very strong lines in Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin-Ryan Strome-Jesper Fast. They have a finalist for league MVP on one line and the best goals-per-game ratio on the other. Panarin is so good that his linemates need simply keep up, which is what Strome did all year. It’s not the sexiest top-six, but their production doesn’t lie.

Carolina has a great top line in Andrei Svechnikov-Sebastian Aho-Teuvo Teravainen. This line is arguably better than either of the top-two lines the Rangers can throw at the Canes. Nino Niederreiter-Vincent Trocheck-Martin Necas is their second line, which isn’t nearly as good, but still dangerous in their own right. Trochek is the wild card here, as he’s a trade deadline acquisition to provide more scoring depth to that second line.

Edge: Rangers, but barely.

The Bottom Six

The Rangers have a depth problem. Their third line is anchored by Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko, but a revolving door of left wingers leaves that line wanting. Brendan Lemieux is suspended, so Phil Di Giuseppe will likely get the call there. The fourth line right now is a hodgepodge of inefficiency. Brett Howden is the only guarantee there, with a rotation of Greg McKegg, Julien Gauthier, and Lemieux likely dressing throughout the series. Not exactly the best depth.

The Canes, meanwhile have a third line of Ryan Dzingel-Jordan Staal-Justin Williams, which is as good a third line as you want in the playoffs. At least on paper. When Warren Foegele (13-17-30) is lining up to be a 4LW, that’s serious depth. This is one of the reasons why Carolina is so dangerous.

Edge: Carolina.

The X-Factor

Carolina’s lines are a known entity. The Rangers are built on potential. Part of that potential is how well Chytil and Kakko look together. A resurgent Kakko gives the third line credibility and gives the Rangers tertiary scoring depth. If that line can keep up with the third line of the Canes, then it balances out the forwards a little bit.

For Carolina, that x-factor is Trocheck. He didn’t get much time to gel with his new team. He put up 10-26-36 with Florida, and it’s assumed he will be on a better scoring pace with a better team. However there isn’t much to go off there. If Trocheck can’t get the second line going, then it’s up to Jordan Staal. There’s still depth to cover, but Trocheck was brought in specifically to be the 2C.

Edge: Rangers, but barely.

Overall

When it comes to the forwards matchup, the Rangers and Hurricanes are closer than they appear. The Canes have the depth that can scare any team. But the Rangers have two top lines that can seemingly score at will. If the Rangers can widen that top-six margin and hold their own in the bottom-six, they can outlast the Canes. That’s a big if.

Edge: Carolina.

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  • This will be a series of our top 6 and the Canes bottom 6. We should dominate in head to head top 6 play BUT will our top 4 on defense be up to the challenge? The Canes bottom 6 can generate offense, but our bottom 6 rarely do. Can Chytil/Kakko cause their 3rd pair some trouble? The Canes being the home team really messes with our matchups, so look for a few very poor matchups where our 3rd pair get matched against one of their top lines. Both defenses can move the puck, but we typically allow unopposed zone entrance. Going to be a tough series.

      • Our bottom 6 may be weak overall, but a rested Kakko and Chytil may surprise Carolina and equalize the bottom 6 results.

    • There seems a key point that is being overlooked. Carolina likes to dump and chase. The Rangers are not very good at standing up at the blue line. So the Rangers are weak against something the Canes don’t like to do.

      During the season, the Rangers won every game and the Canes need to adjust. Can the Canes rewrite the script by going against form and trying to exploit the Ranger weakness? Or will they stick to their standard offensive pattern?

  • I think we match up well with Carolina both on the front end and the back end — our Top 6 is better, their bottom 6 is better, our RD are better, their LD is better. The difference in this series will be Carolina’s goalies — I’m assuming ours will be, as usual, very good to excellent.

    • W-L records this season:

      Shesterkin 10-2
      Georgiev 17-16
      Lundqvist 10-15

      The Rangers don’t have goalies; they have a goalie. Fun fact, among goalies who have started at least twelve games, Shesterkin has the highest career save percentage. [Of course, they have only counted saves since 1955 so some old-timers might beat him.]

      • Seriously Ray??? This is the hill you want to die on? lol Would you trade Georgiev for either Mrazek or Riemer? Would you bet against Hank in a short series, even today?

        • I’d bet against Hank in a short series against the Devils. Georgiev may be as good or better than either Cane goalie, but he is a distraction. I would prefer the Rangers have Huska as the backup than either Lundqvist or Georgiev because I know in that scenario Quinn would live and die with Shesterkin – and Shesty is the only Ranger goalie capable of winning the Cup.

          • If Shesty gets injured, the Rangers do not win the Cup, period. Sure Georgiev or Lundqvist would make things more respectable than Huska or you or I, but neither is likely to get the Rangers through one round and certainly not two.

            I fear Lundqvist and would risk that possible embarrassment to keep him from derailing the team.

  • The superior depth of the Canes will be used to try to tire out the Rangers’ top two lines as they will roll all their lines more frequently than the Rangers. I’d say that the Ranger’s top two have the edge, but as Dave points out the bottom six will have their hands full.

    The Rangers also will have more scoring punch from their defensemen, and what I think are two better power play units. If the Rangers’ top two lines can dominate, and if Igor is lights out, the Rangers have a very good chance of advancing.

    • Our bottom 6 started to play better before the premature ending of the regular season. Plus a rested/excited Kakko and Chytil might give the Canes something to think about. Regardless, fatigue shouldn’t be a big issue in a 5 game series after a 4+ month layoff, I think “rust” and/or a slow start will be the bigger issue.

      • With games in a very short stretch, fatigue will be a problem for a very small number of players, possibly one. I think Quinn will and must limit Marc Staal’s ice time. I think Marc is under-appreciated here, but he can’t play 20 minutes three times in four days and be effective. Brendan Smith is also past 30 and not used to long minutes of late. Possibly there are a few younger Rangers with stamina issues but I don’t know who they are – certainly not Panarin, Trouba or Zibanejad.

      • Tanto, my point is rather, the Canes will put fresher legs out on the ice during the game consistently if they roll all four lines. The Rangers tend to barely use the 4th line and have a tendency to shorten their bench to get the top two lines on as much as possible. It is something to watch for at least during the games.

        • I’m sure they will …. and if this was a normal season and these games were being played after a regular 82 game season I would definitely be concerned.

  • The two hockey writers/TV guys on the MSG Network preview show (Who are media guys that DON’T cover the Rangers) are picking the Rangers to win this series…….Reason ? ……..(per them) Goalie Depth……Lets Go Rangers !!!!!

  • How could we not have the edge in bottom 6, when we have Howden?

    If the Canes don’t in the first period of the first game, then the doubts will start to creep in, due to the Rangers’ dominance since 2011. And if Shesty is a brick wall, then shut out the lights.

    The Canes might have one of the best possession teams in the league, but this is an even shorter series than usual. Scoring goals is all that matters and I like our goalies vs theirs.

    Rangers in 4.

    • I don’t trust dominance. I remember the Knicks and Bullets in 1971. The Knicks owned the Bullets for two years and crushed them in the first two games of the playoffs; the paper even said “Ho hum, Knicks win again.” The Bullets were injured and basically reduced to playing five players (entire bench played 4 minutes in one game).

      Of course, the Bullets won in 7.

      Brind’Amour has never seriously thought about how to play the Rangers in the past and hasn’t adjusted. This time he will.

      Mind you, I like the Rangers to win the Cup because they have the two best players in the game. They can only be stopped by an injury to Panarin, an injury to Shesterkin, or Lundqvist.

      • It’s not a guarantee Ray, but it has to be a factor.

        Weren’t the mets undefeated one year against the dodgers and then lost the series to them, the same year?

        But the Rangers dominance is over almost 10 years, not just one year. The Canes voted “no” because they did not want to play the Rangers, lol.

  • The absence of Dougie Hamilton just might be the true “X” factor. My prediction: Rangers sweep the Canes… 11GF 4 GA Shestorkin is brilliant!

  • Canes won with exceptional defense last year.
    Not this year without 2 of their top 3 Dmen. Goaltending is week and will be exploited.
    True coming out party for Mika and Igor.
    Rangers in 4

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