rangers hurricanes

Fresh off their five game sweep in western Canada (and Seattle), the Blueshirts are back at MSG tonight to take on the Carolina Hurricanes, representing the Rangers first true test of the season.. The Canes have been the cream of the crop in the Metro Division for some time now, winning the division each of the last two seasons. They are a solid team built on a system that is well coached.

As it stands today, the Canes are second in the Metro Division, behind the Rangers, with 12 points (6-4-0) in 10 games. The Rangers have a 7-2 record and 14 points in one less game. What makes Carolina so scary is beyond the repeated success and the team structure. This year seems a bit different, as they are seemingly scoring at will with 37 goals already. The Rangers have just 28 in their 9 games.

What makes Carolina even scarier, and why they are the Rangers first true test this season, is they scored at will without Andrei Svechnikov (just 2 GP) and were without Sebastian Aho (just 7 games) for a chunk as well. Teuvo Teravainen (8 goals) and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (10 points) have really stepped up, along with Seth Jarvis (9 points).

Something to note about the Canes is that despite their 6-4-0 record, they are still among the league leaders in shot-share and expected-goals share. Their CA/60 of 48.47 is 2nd in the league. Their 2.3 xGA/60 is 4th in the league. Their HDCA/60 is also in the top-ten at 10.14, which is right in line with the Rangers. It does seem that goaltending has been the problem for Carolina.

The Canes are the Rangers first true test of the season. Not just because of the metrics and overall team strength, but because Carolina’s strength matches up poorly with the Rangers strength, which has been defense. It’s been the defense, not the offense, carrying this team. They are top-ten in every defensive metric.

Plus there’s Igor Shesterkin in net.

The Rangers first true test will be about keeping pace

It looks like the Rangers first true test of the season will be a story of the unstoppable force –Carolina’s offense– meeting the immovable object –the Rangers defense and goaltending– and seeing how the Blueshirts respond. High octane offenses gave the Rangers trouble last season, and with the revamped defensive play, this is the game we’ve been needing.

However it’s not all about Carolina’s offense. This is a very exploitable team. The Canes have had horrible goaltending –no one above a .890 SV%– and that doesn’t look to be solving itself any time soon. The Canes have needed to outscore their opponents, to varying success, as they’ve allowed 37 goals against this season.

This plays into Igor Shesterkin’s strengths. A large number of Carolina’s shots come from defensemen and their HDCF/60 is 10.8, just 19th in the league. Their rate of shot attempts to high danger attempts is awfully low as a result. With the Rangers doing a good job controlling the home plate high danger area in front, that could be a matchup problem for the Canes.

Given their goaltending struggles, if the Rangers keep Carolina to the outside, it bodes well for their chances at a win. That, of course, is a big IF.

The other big question, and why this is the Rangers first true test of the season, is whether the Rangers can find some offensive consistency. They are winning and scoring goals, which is great, but their offensive metrics are near bottom of the league in all categories. There’s a lot of one-and-done in the offensive zone right now. While that should change as the season progresses, it’s something to watch tonight.

The Carolina Hurricanes are a very good team, better than their record indicates, and represents the Rangers first true test of the season. Process will matter here, as looking bad and barely winning will leave a sour taste in people’s mouths. Strong process, limiting chances against, and playing to their strengths is how the Rangers will show they are a Stanley Cup contender.


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