- Who will win & in how many games
- Who will be the series MVP
- Who will be the biggest X-Factor
- Who/what we are most confident in
- Who/what we are most worried about
With that said, let’s get started!
Who Will Win & In How Many Games?
Rangers in 4 — Matt, Jack & Tom
Rangers in 5 — Adam, Brianna, Bryan, Joe, Mike, and Shayna
Hurricanes in 5 — Kevin
Personally, I don’t like to hedge by picking a winner and having the series go the distance, although I can understand why the majority of my colleagues picked five games. After a lengthy layoff, there is going to be some sloppy hockey, and a fluke bounce could result in this series going all the way.
One person in the Banter slack channel said, “I really think we either kick the shit out of Carolina, or they kick the shit out of us, no in between.” I think this is a realistic outcome, but that is why they play the games.
Only Kevin picked the Hurricanes, and we will get into why in a little bit.
Who Will Be Series MVP?
Artemiy Panarin — Bryan, Joe, and Matt
Igor Shesterkin — Adam, Brianna, Jack, Mike, and Tom
Andrei Svechnikov — Kevin
Mika Zibanejad — Shayna
Here we had some different opinions, all of which make a lot of sense.
Panarin was one the league’s best players in 2019-20, and there’s a reason why he’s a Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award finalist. He was voted Rangers’ MVP, and is by far the team’s most dynamic player. Given the fact that this is a five game series being played after a lengthy layoff, there’s a good chance that skill will be the ultimate difference maker. Panarin’s shown he’s capable of taking over a game and willing his team to victory, and if he does that vs. Carolina the Rangers should advance.
Then there’s Igor Shesterkin, the Prince, the Czar, the heir apparent, and the potential starting goaltender for this series. This season was Igor’s first in North America, and all he did was dazzle and win. Goaltending can prove to be the ultimate difference maker in the playoffs, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Igor steal this series from the Hurricanes.
Yes, he is young and the playoffs are a different animal altogether, but there’s something special about Igor that’s enabled him to do what he’s done in hockey up to this point. He won a championship in the KHL, and there’s reason to believe he can do the same one day for the New York Rangers.
Kevin picked Andrei Svechnikov, and he’s one of the most talented young players in the NHL today. Svechnikov was the No. 2 pick back in 2018, and this season finished with a line of 24-37-61 in 68 games played. He drew headlines this season by scoring some downright filthy lacrosse goals, and the Rangers will need to pay close attention to him whenever he’s behind the net. Defensive prowess isn’t a strong suit for the Rangers, and this only will enable Svechnikov to be even more dangerous.
Last, but certainly not least, is Mika Zibanejad. I asked Shayna for her thoughts, and here’s what she had to say:
“Without Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton, the Hurricanes may keep their focus on Artemiy Panarin by matching him up against Jaccob Slavin. And rightfully so, he is one of the best players in the league. But, it means that there’s fewer top tier defenders to go up against the Zibanejad line since the Rangers typically split up their two best forwards at even strength.
It’s not to say that the Hurricanes don’t have the defensive depth — they do — but containing Zibanejad is a tall ask, especially when he’s clicking with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. And if the two-way center continues where he left off when the season paused... watch out.”
Who Will Be Biggest X-Factor?
Sebastian Aho — Brianna & Kevin
Chris Kreider — Matt
Petr Mrazek — Mike
Brady Skjei — Adam
Igor Shesterkin — Bryan, Jack & Joe
Jacob Trouba — Shayna & Tom
Sebastian Aho is Carolina’s best or second best forward depending on who you talk to. This season he scored three goals in the four games against the Rangers, and had a total line of 38-28-66 in 68 games played. He is such a dynamic and crafty forward who could give the Rangers’ defense fits, and ultimately could be a big X-factor for Carolina.
Mike picked Petr Mrazek and said the following about the presumptive starter:
“So much of this series is going to come down to what the Hurricanes get out of their goaltenders, especially Mrazek. It’s no secret that Mrazek was a sieve against the Rangers in the season series, but that is now effectively ancient history. The same is true of his sub-.900 save percentage in the 2019 Playoffs. If Mrazek gets hot, the Rangers’ greatest strength in the series could be nullified. Of course, that’s a pretty big “if” - but that’s why he’s my wildcard.”
And lastly for the Canes, Adam picked Skjei, and I asked him for his rationale:
“Brady Skjei’s trade from the Rangers to the Hurricanes is an obvious talking point for the play-in series, but that’s incidental to why I think he’s the X-Factor. Carolina’s aggressive system relies on having mobile defensemen to keep plays alive in the offensive zone, close off space in the neutral zone, and clean up messes when vulnerable on transitions. Without Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton for at least part of the series, the Hurricanes have problems. Jaccob Slavin can either go up against the Rangers’ best player, Artemiy Panarin, or the best line, Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich. He can’t do both. Skjei has the ability to do what the Hurricanes’ system asks of him but his development has been turbulent and he hasn’t had much time to find his way since the trade. If Skjei is at his best, Rangers fans know well enough that he has the ability to do his part in neutralizing one of the Rangers’ scoring lines. But it’s up in the air if he can find that form so soon.”
Matt picked Chris Kreider, and he’s another player who is primed for a big series. He signed a lengthy contract extension which could keep him in New York for the rest of his career, and suffered an injury vs. Philadelphia which at the time could have been season-ending. But then the pandemic resulted in a massive pause which gave him enough time to heal. Kreider is someone who enjoys the postseason, and has a career line of 23-14-37 in 77 games, including a line of 5-8-13 in 15 games during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. With the weight of where he’s going to be playing off his shoulders, Kreider could run wild for New York.
Shayna and I picked Jacob Trouba as our biggest X-factor, and I feel he has a big opportunity to step up for the Rangers. His first season with the Rangers was one with ups and downs, and overall not what you’d expect out of an $8 million player. It was just one game, but Trouba looked really good with Brendan Smith vs. the New York Islanders against their top line of Anders Lee, Mat Barzal, and Jordan Eberle. Trouba will be leaned on in this series, and the team would be in great shape if him and Smith can be what Smith and Brady Skjei were in the 2017 playoffs.
Lastly is Igor, another worthy choice for the reasons listed in the series MVP section.
Who/What Are We Most Confident About?
Adam Fox — Kevin & Shayna
Adam Fox & Ryan Lindgren — Adam
Artemiy Panarin — Brianna, Jack, Matt, Mike, Tom
Mika Zibanejad — Bryan & Joe
Adam Fox had a sensational rookie season, and arguably should have been among the three finalists for the Calder Trophy. Defense is a weakness for the Rangers, but it is pretty awesome/scary that when it comes to a rookie like Fox that there’s really no reason to be afraid. Ryan Lindgren also was a rookie this year, and did an admirable job in his own right, even though he certainly was a beneficiary of skating with Fox.
What else can we say, or needs to be said about Panarin? He’s an elite forward, and fans should be very confident in his abilities heading into this series vs. Carolina. Panarin was a beast vs. the Hurricanes during the regular season, and finished with a line of 3-6-9, which was damn fine. The same can be said about Zibanejad who record a line of 4-3-7 in three games vs. the Hurricanes this season while averaging 20:49 a game.
Who/What Are We Most Worried About?
Andrei Svechnikov — Adam
Carolina’s Top Line (Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen) — Brianna, Mike, Shayna, Tom
Carolina’s Offense — Bryan
Rangers’ Defense — Matt, Jack, Kevin (excluding Adam Fox)
The relentless march of time toward our demise, and the bottom part of the Rangers defense — Joe
Although the answers are different, the theme is the same. Joe got a little philosophical, but I allowed it since we don’t hear from him often.
Collectively there’s concern about the strength of Carolina’s top line of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen which makes sense given the relative weakness of the Rangers’ defense outside of Adam Fox.
Like I said in the intro, this could be a very sloppy series. Both teams were off for months, the series is only five games, and there is no knowing how the ice will be given that all the Eastern Conference games are being played in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena. If Carolina’s offense is able to take advantage early and often, the Rangers will be at the mercy of whoever is in goal. I think I’ve seen this film before... and I didn’t like the ending.
Unless the starting goalie, presumably Igor, steals the series, this may very well be a back and forth affair where last goal wins.
With that said, we’d love to know what you think will happen in the series.
Who wins this series?
This poll is closed
Rangers in 3
Hurricanes in 3
Rangers in 4
Hurricanes in 4
Rangers in 5
Hurricanes in 5
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