The New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes are set to do battle in the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The two Metropolitan Division rivals finished 1st and 2nd in the division and seemed to be on a collision course for a playoff matchup. They both had to survive Game 7’s to get to the Second Round. I sat down with the voice of the Carolina Hurricanes Mike Maniscalco to help preview the series.
The Comeback Kids
The Rangers have been the comeback kids all season, but they took it to a new level in their First Round matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Falling behind 3-1 in the series the Rangers engineered a legendary comeback. They became the first team in NHL history to come from behind in three consecutive elimination games in the same series. This team has completely bought into the team’s slogan “No Quit in NY.”
The Carolina Hurricanes had a historic season. They finished the regular season with 116 points and 54 wins, both franchise records. The Canes First-Round series also went 7 games. They survived a really good Boston Bruins team that was looking for an upset. During the regular season, the Canes won 3 of the 4 matchups against the Rangers. Outscoring the Blueshirts 14-10. The Rangers lone win was an Alexandar Georgiev 44 save shutout. While you cannot put too much stock into regular-season meetings, the Canes definitely had the advantage. This will be the first real playoff series between the two teams. The Rangers and Hurricanes played in the NHL Playoffs bubble in the Qualifying round with the Canes sweeping the series 3-0.
Hurricanes Goalie Situation
What is the current state of the @Canes goalie situation? Will we see Freddie Andersen or is it the Antti Raanta show? #LetsGoCanes play-by-play announcer @mikemaniscalco gives us the latest update. Check out the full series preview here⬇️https://t.co/AQkn3GmN0T#NYR #NoQuitInNY pic.twitter.com/zYVQJgFuTv— The Broadway Hat Podcast (@Broadwayhatpod) May 17, 2022
The Hurricanes have been without their star goalie Frederik Andersen since mid-April. He has yet to take the ice in practice so a familiar name to Rangers fans will be in the net, Antti Raanta. Raanta played two seasons with the Rangers and was a great backup to Henrik Lundqvist. In 28 games this year Raanta went 15-5-4, with a 2.45 GAA and .912 SV%. Raanta and Andersen formed the top goalie duo in the NHL this season. Winning the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the team with the fewest goals scored against it. Raanta played extremely well in the Canes First Round putting up a .927 SV% and made some huge saves in Game 7 to eliminate the Bruins.
Battle of the Special Teams
It is not a secret the Rangers need their powerplay to come through if they want to win. They finished 4th in the NHL this season scoring 25.2% and went 31.6% in the First Round. The Hurricanes on the other hand had the top penalty kill unit in the NHL this season. Ending the season at a fantastic 88%. The Canes did struggle on the PK in their First Round series, finishing with just a 79.3% kill rate. The Hurricanes are the better 5-on-5 team, so if they can limit the Rangers man-advantage opportunities they should have the edge in the matchup. The Rangers have to take advantage of a Canes team that does take a lot of penalties and make them pay when they do.
Players To Watch
Igor is the X-Factor in this series. If he can build on the three wins to close out the Penguins and forget the nightmare performances of Games 3 and 4 the Rangers will have the edge in net. Igor did struggle against the Canes in his two games against them this season. Going 0-2 with a 3.63 GAA. If the Rangers get the Vezina Trophy caliber Igor they are going to be tough to beat in 7 games. In the First Round, Igor only allowed one goal after the second period, which came in the triple OT in Game 1. He stepped up in the biggest moments of the series.
Miller is becoming a star in these playoffs. The former 2018 First Round pick was the Rangers most consistent player in their series against the Penguins. Miller not only scored a goal in Game 7 but his overtime takeaway and breakaway drew the penalty which led to the powerplay that produced the Rangers game-winning goal. He also toe-to-toe with Crosby and Malkin all series and didn’t blink. His speed on the backend can be a huge factor and helps the Rangers push the tempo.
Following DeAngelo’s unceremonial Rangers release he landed in Carolina and had an unbelievable season. In his first season with Carolina, he produced 51 points and made Canes fans forget about Dougie Hamilton real fast. His outstanding season has continued into the playoffs. His 8 points in the First Round were tied with Jaccob Slavin for the most on the team. If the Rangers can get DeAngelo off his game by getting physical with him and goad him into taking dumb penalties, they can somewhat neutralize him. In games, Carolina won this year he had a plus-minus of +36, in games the Canes lost he was -6.
Aho lit up the Rangers in the regular season. In his 4 games against the Rangers, he scored 3 goals and assisted on 4 others. The 24-year-old superstar scored 37 goals during the regular season and produced 81 points. The Rangers need to limit his high-scoring chance opportunities. They struggled with stopping the Penguins top line last series and it won’t get easier in this round. If Aho can find the same high-scoring chance opportunities that Sidney Crosby had it could be a long series for the Rangers.
I truly believe the Game 3 and 4 struggles of Igor Shesterkin are behind him. Combine that with the fact the Hurricanes are not the most disciplined team, and I think the Rangers powerplay can be the biggest factor in this playoffs series. The Rangers have been doubted all season long and their First Round comeback just showed that this team is for real. Give me the Rangers in 6.
Be sure to bookmark our hockey page for hockey coverage and follow Belly Up Hockey on Twitter: @BellyUpHockey. Follow me on Twitter for more takes on the New York Rangers and USA Hockey: @KHallNY. You can also listen to my NY Rangers podcast The Broadway Hat Podcast on Apple Podcast and Spotify for Rangers news and interviews with past and current players.