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.
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.
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.