With a full day to celebrate and digest Chris Kreider’s heroics, we can take a step back and give a full Rangers/Hurricanes series review. The series may have been a tad lopsided if you look solely at the Rangers 3-0 series lead, but it was far from lopsided when you dive into the games and how each team matched up.

We knew from the start that the Canes would not go down easy, even if down 3-0. The Rangers got a pair of overtime wins to build that lead, but it was the Canes who controlled most of the 5v5 play. At least in terms of zone time and quantity of shot attempts. It was the Rangers who owned the quality and special teams, and that proved to be the difference.

Rangers/Hurricanes series review: All about the goaltending

Any Rangers/Hurricanes series review starts with the goaltending. Igor Shesterkin played an amazing series, and while he didn’t necessarily steal the series, he was a big factor in the Rangers 4-2 win. Per Natural Stat Trick (all situations), Shesterkin faced 224 shots on goal and allowed just 19 goals for a .915 SV%. Frederik Andersen was far less effective, allowing 20 goals on 157 shots for a .872 SV%.

We knew Carolina would own the shot share and xG share at 5v5 going into the series. That wasn’t a surprise. So we also understood that Shesterkin would need to stand tall on low danger chances while the team defense cleared the high danger chances. But it was his performance when down a man that may have proved to be the difference.

Shesterkin faced 27 shots on the penalty kill, stopping all but two of them for a .925 SV%. Andersen, meanwhile, faced 21 shots when shorthanded and stopped just 16 of them (.761 SV%), again all from Natural Stat Trick.

Igor Shesterkin has been and will continue to be the X-Factor for the Rangers.

Shot quality reigns supreme

Diving deeper into the quality of chances in this Rangers/Hurricanes series review, we dive into the big difference between the two clubs, which was high danger chances. Per Meghan Chayka, the Rangers generated 20 high danger chances and 74 inner slot chances. Inner slot shots were close to the same, but the Rangers generated far more high danger chances on 20% fewer shot attempts. This matters.

Most of the models we see are built on all types of shot types and are, perhaps, weighted too heavily on low danger chances. The thought process–and this is overly simplifying things– is that 100 shots at a 5% chance of going in leads to 5 goals. Statistically yes, that checks out. But it doesn’t factor in goalie talent and the opposition’s system.

In the Rangers’ case, they have Shesterkin which we covered. They also have a system designed to limit shots to the outside and then clear the home plate area. Of the Canes 479 shot attempts, only 2.5% of them were considered high danger. The Rangers managed to double that at 5% high danger chances. Combine that with Shesterkin vs. Andersen, and you have a mismatch.

The Rangers system is based on counter attacks, limiting high danger chances against, and keeping opponents to the outside. They executed that strategy very well, save for Game 5 when the flu (apparently) ran rampant through the locker room.

For what it’s worth, the Rangers got 12 5v5 goals on 13.26 xG. Carolina got 13 5v5 goals on 14.69 xG. The 5v5 advantage wasn’t what people made it out to be in the series previews.

Special teams matter

It’s funny how a Rangers/Hurricanes series review can basically laugh at most of the predictions. Going into the series, many thought the Canes’ dominance at 5v5, which played out as expected albeit with perhaps less of an xG advantage than many predicted.

It was the special teams that proved the difference in the first three games, creating an insurmountable lead for the Rangers.

The Rangers scored five powerplay goals in just 25:30 powerplay time. In Game 1, they needed less than 30 seconds to score two powerplay goals. In Game 6, the powerplay created the tying goal. They scored shorthanded twice, equaling the number of powerplay goals the Canes scored in the entire series.

Special teams matter. If there’s one lesson to take from this Rangers/Hurricanes series review, it’s that the models are weighted heavily for 5v5 play. Perhaps too heavily weighted. There’s also an argument that the models are too heavily weighted for low danger chances.

In the end, the Rangers won because the difference at 5v5 wasn’t as exaggerated as many made it out to be. Special teams and goaltending were more than enough to cover the difference.

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