The Eastern Conference Final between the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers kicks off on Wednesday night. The Rangers are again the betting underdogs, like they were against the Carolina Hurricanes, and many pundits again have the Panthers heavily favored. Given some models, a Rangers/Panthers stats preview needs to dive deeper than just possession and xG numbers.

Season long and post-deadline possession numbers favor Florida

The Rangers are not a puck possession darling. Nor are they an xG darling. We know this, and it’s why the models are pretty big on Florida and Carolina. This checks out, of course, as Florida and Carolina are very similar teams. The Panthers were a top-5 team in shot-share and xG-share over the 2023-2024 season, something we already knew.

Post-deadline, the Panthers were still a top-5 team in shot share, but dropped from 5th to 11th in xG share. They added Vladimir Tarasenko and Kyle Okposo, two guys who provide more than possession numbers to a team that could sacrifice in that area. The drop doesn’t signal they got worse, just they added different elements.

What is very interesting, and perhaps more importantly, is the Panthers had a pretty steep drop off in high danger chance rates following the deadline. Per Natural Stat Trick, the Panthers were 20th in the NHL in HD chance share at 48.78% post deadline, way down from 53.81% through the season. Both Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov were out during this stretch, though.

For those looking for a weak point: It’s capitalizing when Barkov is not on the ice. The Panthers are very average without his line out there.

Florida has the best goalie the Rangers have seen these playoffs

Saying that Sergei Bobrovsky is better than Charlie Lindgren, Frederik Andersen, and Pyotr Kotchetkov isn’t really a stretch, but it’s the truth. Bobrovsky is the best goalie the Rangers will face thus far these playoffs. He’s fully capable of stealing games and stealing the series if he gets hot.

Bobrovsky is going to give the Rangers problems, or at least more problems than Andersen and Lindgren. As with everything, and as Luker points out, getting chances on the powerplay will matter, as this is where Bobrovksy has a known weakness. Luckily, this plays into the Rangers’ strengths, even if Florida had the 6th best penalty kill this season.

For what it’s worth, Carolina had the best regular season penalty kill.

Igor Shesterkin has been and will continue to be the key for the Rangers. He’s the best goalie remaining in the playoffs by a wide margin, but it’s Bobrovsky who is #2. Don’t be fooled by his .902 SV% in the playoffs. He’s better than that number.

It’s all about The Formula

As long as Igor Shesterkin continues to be Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers will lean heavily on him. As they should. He’s the key piece in The Formula, along with getting either a powerplay goal or keeping their xG share over 48%. Igor isn’t automatic and Florida is a top-two team in the East that is adept at getting high danger chances. Much more so than Carolina.

The Panthers play a heavier game than Carolina, but is also slower, perhaps leading to a bit more of a favorable matchup for the Blueshirts. If they continue to kill penalties, get timely powerplay goals, and tread water at 5v5–all while Shesterkin continues to be himself– then they will have a big advantage.

As we dive into our systems preview, we will see how these numbers translate to the on-ice product, and how the Rangers can use Florida’s system against them.

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