With the first round recaps all wrapped up, it’s time to jump into our second round previews, starting with a Rangers/Canes systems preview. The Carolina Hurricanes are known entities at this point, and while their aggressive forecheck can cause problems for the Rangers, their offensive zone system is actually a good matchup.

Hurricanes are an aggressive team that relies on point shots

The Carolina Hurricanes are the analytical darlings of the NHL. They’ve been puck possession monsters and are very much a systems based team. They can plug and play almost anyone in their lineup and still be the possession monsters they’re known for.

The Canes run a very aggressive 2-1-2 and 1-2-2 forecheck, putting pressure on the puck carrier and his outlets. They cause chaos in the offensive zone on the forecheck and in the neutral zone, forcing teams into turnovers and counter attacking with pretty strong results.

In the defensive zone, the Canes play man coverage, which is becoming increasingly popular in the NHL. The Caps ran a man system as well, and the Rangers run a hybrid zone/man system. The goal of the system is to disrupt, cause turnovers, and transition.

When setting up in the offensive zone, the Canes don’t necessarily have a system, but they do have a specific goal and style of play. They aim to get shots from the point, then crash the net for rebounds. If they happen to force a turnover on the forecheck, they counterattack very quickly with solid slot line passing.

Canes aggressiveness can give Rangers fits

If you’re following closely, you’ll see a lot of similarities between the Canes and the Caps. Both are aggressive teams that pressure the puck carrier. The difference is Carolina is much, much better at it and they have buy-in from all 18 skaters, including their stars.

As we’ve seen, the Rangers struggle with aggressive teams. The Caps made it difficult for the Rangers to exit their own zone efficiently, creating a lot of glass-and-outs (turnovers). The Canes are no different, except they will capitalize on these turnovers, both in the offensive zone and from the glass-and-outs.

When setting up on offense, the Rangers like to be a bit more methodical, thus aggressive man coverage creates a flow concern. Against the Caps, the Rangers were individually quicker so they still got looks. The Caps were also a bit slow at the team speed level, so they played a little slower and it benefited the Rangers. The Canes are both individually fast and play fast, so this has the potential to ruin the Rangers day.

Peter Laviolette has the Rangers mimicking the man coverage they should expect to see, so at least we know they are preparing for it.

The other aspect is rush chances against, which has been a weakness for the Rangers all season long. Carolina get a good amount of rush chances off their forecheck and turnovers. This can bury the Rangers quickly if they are careless with the puck. Or worse, if they simply can’t get out of the defensive zone.

The best way to defend against rush chances against, aside from being careful with the puck and avoiding unforced errors, is to limit Carolina’s speed through the neutral zone. The Rangers mostly play a 2-1-2 forecheck, which can be used to put pressure on the puck carrier between the blue line and red line, slowing down the breakout. We’ve also seen how effective the 1-3-1 is when protecting leads late.

Rangers defensive zone system is a good matchup

The good news it the Rangers have a defensive zone system that matches up quite well against Carolina. As said on Live From the Blue Seats this morning, the Rangers are known for limiting shots to the outside and clearing the home plate area in front of the net. If the Rangers execute, then Carolina won’t get much in the offensive zone.

The key will be clearing rebounds and the front of the net while also preventing shots from the point from getting through. Brent Burns, Brady Skjei, and Tony DeAngelo will be their main shooters from the point.

It’s also worth noting that at 5v5, the Canes are not exactly a good shooting team. It’s been their Achilles heel for a number of years now, as they simply have trouble finishing. Jake Guentzel was added to try to address this, and he’s certainly been a solid addition for the Canes. Still, the Canes shot just 6.18% against the Isles at 5v5. For comparison’s sake, the Rangers shot 9% at 5v5 against the Caps.

If the Rangers are able to shut down the Canes offense, clogging up that home plate area and limiting high danger chances against, then the Canes simply don’t shoot well enough to compensate. This is a glaring weakness outside of Guentzel and Sebastian Aho, who are both on the same line.

Line matching will play a role as well, something Peter Laviolette has emphasized all season, and something that hasn’t been consistent since Game 1 against Washington.

Rangers breakouts can be tweaked with proper personnel

The Rangers may struggle against aggressive teams, at least on the breakouts, but they can make a very easy adjustment on the breakout to hopefully neuter the Canes’ aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck. There are 4 basic breakouts that most teams use: Wheel, Reverse, Quick-Up, Over Over. Teams aren’t limited to these four, they are just the most common.

You’ll notice that F1 is the lowest forward in the breakout, which is usually the center. Strong puck movers at center–guys like Mika Zibanejad, Vincent Trocheck, Filip Chytil, and Alex Wennberg– are critical in adjusting to an aggressive team.

Generally the Rangers like to stretch the defense, going up to F2 or F3 in most breakouts. A safety net lower in the zone (F1) creates an outlet to break the aggressive forecheck. This is where a guy like Barclay Goodrow may struggle, as puck moving isn’t really his strength.

Goaltending can and likely will be the difference

Assuming both teams have long stretches where their system dictates the game, and this is the most likely scenario, then the series may come down to goaltending. Igor Shesterkin is the clear advantage here. You can’t look me in the eye and say Frederik Andersen is on the same level.

However any goalie can get hot, and any goalie can make a timely save. Even if Andersen doesn’t get hot, he can still make that one save per game that seals it for Carolina. He’s good, he’s just not Igor good.

Tying all this together, if the Rangers limit Carolina to mostly low danger chances while also taking care of the puck, then Igor doesn’t need to go nuclear to win the series. It’s a big IF, of course.

These are two of the top teams in the NHL, and the series will likely play out as such. This series will likely be at least six games and will probably go the distance.


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