Unlike the systems preview yesterday, the Rangers/Hurricanes stats preview tells a much different story about the two teams. The Rangers are a team that relies on skill, finishing, and goaltending. The Hurricanes are a team that rely on their system to overload the opponent with shots and wear them down.

If you want a tl;dr version of the Rangers/Hurricanes stats preview, it’s pretty simple. The Hurricanes will most likely dictate pace of play and control the overwhelming majority of the 5v5 ice time. The Rangers will get their chances, and they will need to be sharp on special teams and in net. The Canes will rely on overwhelming the Rangers. The Blueshirts will rely on finishing talent.

Canes will control 5v5 play

If you’re watching hockey at all, you know the Carolina Hurricanes are a juggernaut. They are a strong systems based team that has been one of the best puck possession teams over the last 5 years, based on shot share. The Rangers have never been a good 5v5 possession team, relying more on finishing skill.

Based solely on season long shot share, we should expect the Carolina Hurricanes to control most of the play at 5v5.

RangersHurricanes
CF/6059.7971.38
CA/6059.5348.48
CF%50.11%59.55%
xGF/602.522.94
xGA/602.622.23
xGF%49.04%56.93%
HDCF/6010.9712.13
HDCA/6011.219.51
HDCF%49.46%56.06%
SV%91.44%91.24%
SH%8.41%7.88%
Numbers per Natural Stat Trick.

The season long numbers play out exactly how we expect them to. The Rangers aren’t nearly as bad as everyone thinks they are, especially post-deadline where they saw a surge in most of the possession and quality numbers. But the Hurricanes are the Hurricanes.

If the Rangers are able to manage a 48% xG share at 5v5, they should be fine. It’s a part of the formula, one that is relatively opponent-independent, based on Rob Luker’s analysis.

To be clear, the above is the opponent’s stats against the Rangers, not the Rangers stats. The two important bars are the red and black bars (thank you Luker for finally listening to me and avoiding red/green), which are how the top 10% of teams fared against the Rangers, and how Carolina fared against the Rangers, respectively.

Long story short, there was minimal difference between the formula results and quality of opponent, but there were some slight percentage changes here and there. Carolina, on the other hand, blew the Rangers out of the water in all stat categories, including goals. Though goals is weighted heavily on their 6-1 win, and not the two losses (2-1, 1-0).

It’s worth noting the Rangers did have a pretty rough goals-share against top teams in the league despite having somewhat similar possession numbers. That is also heavily skewed by that January-February stretch where Igor Shesterkin couldn’t save a beach ball and allowed 5+ goals to Vegas (2x), Carolina, Vancouver, and Toronto.

Post-deadline Rangers have better numbers

While many pundits use season long numbers without context, you know us, we like to add that context. The Rangers added two significant pieces to their depth after playing most of the season without a 3C or 1RW. The Hurricanes added a legitimate scorer in Jake Guentzel and solidified offensive depth with a surprisingly decent Evgeny Kuznetsov.

As expected, the post-deadline Canes have almost identical possession numbers to their regular season numbers. They are, after all, a plug-and-play systems team, and a good one at that. Funny enough, their SH% went down over that stretch to 7.44%. Take that for what it is.

The Rangers, on the other hand, saw a significant uptick in most of their numbers:

Season LongPost Deadline
CF/6059.7963.29
CA/6059.5356.39
CF%50.11%52.88%
xGF/602.522.55
xGA/602.622.37
xGF%49.04%51.81%
HDCF/6010.9710.59
HDCA/6011.219.92
HDCF%49.46%51.62%
SV%91.44%90.77%
SH%8.41%8.71%
Numbers per Natural Stat Trick.

Again, Carolina is a great team. They are a top-three team in the NHL for a reason, and they are–in my opinion–one of the four teams that can realistically win the Stanley Cup this year. But to ignore the significant improvements the Rangers have made post-deadline as a result of adding Alex Wennberg and Jack Roslovic would be foolish. It is also foolish to rely on these numbers as gospel.

The above is meant to show the improvements on the Rangers side of things. Wennberg in particular stabilized the bottom half of the lineup, resulting in far better defensive numbers. The offensive numbers didn’t change much, save for an uptick in CF/60. It was the defensive numbers.

Goaltending, team defense, and execution

Much like with the systems preview, this is going to come down to execution. The Carolina Hurricanes aren’t exactly a strong defensive team, relying on overwhelming offensive pressure to limit chances against. They aren’t bad, mind you, they just lack the same structure in the defensive zone that the Rangers have.

The wild card for the Rangers is Filip Chytil, who goes a long way to augmenting the already solid center depth on the Rangers with another good puck mover. For Carolina, it’s the Brett Pesce injury and if/when he can return to the series.

If the Rangers are able to maintain a 48% xG share, again part of the formula, then they will be cutting one of Carolina’s legs out, forcing them to rely on rush chances and skill to finish off the Rangers. If not, and unfortunately this is the most likely scenario, the Rangers will need to rely on clearing home plate and finishing their chances.

As always, it comes down to execution.

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