Having wrapped up a dramatic seven-game series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, in which they rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to ultimately take the series on Artemiy Panarin’s overtime goal in Game 7, the history-making, “No Quit” New York Rangers are surely riding an emotional high.
The New York Rangers are the first team in Stanley Cup Playoff history to record three consecutive comeback wins in elimination games within the same series pic.twitter.com/a9MOd1Bkcj— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 16, 2022
But now the competition gets even stiffer, as the Rangers will take on the extremely well-rounded Carolina Hurricanes, who certainly had their way with the Blueshirts for most of their four regular-season matchups. However, the Canes also needed a full seven games in their first-round series before closing out the Boston Bruins.
As I did ahead of the Round 1 series against the Penguins — where, for the record, we all correctly picked the Rangers to win, although most of us underestimated how difficult it would be — I collected thoughts for this Round 2 series from some of our Blueshirt Banter staff, to add to my own. We explored the same general topics as in Round 1:
- Who will win the series, and in how many games?
- Who will be the series MVP?
- Who/what will be the biggest X-factor?
- Who/what we are most confident in?
- Who/what we are most worried about?
Let’s dive in.
Who Will Win the Series, and in How Many Games?
Roberto: Rangers in 6
Tom U., Leighann, Brianna: Rangers in 7
Mike, Jack: Hurricanes in 5
Tom D., Joe, Kevin: Hurricanes in 6
The Banter staff is not nearly as confident going into this series against an excellent Carolina team that really does not have any holes. Five out of nine, including myself, have the Hurricanes advancing (more details and reasons why later on), but some are still keeping the faith that the Comeback Kids from New York will be able to pull off another series win.
Who Will Be the Series MVP?
Tom U., Joe, Leighann, Brianna: Igor Shesterkin
Roberto: Mika Zibanejad
Tom D., Kevin: Andrei Svechnikov
Mike, Jack: Sebastian Aho
We have a few players here that multiple writers have picked as the series MVP, as Igor Shesterkin, Andrei Svechnikov, and Sebastian Aho have each picked up at least two votes; Shesterkin leads the way with four. Interestingly, Joe has selected Shesterkin despite picking the Rangers to lose the series, so he’s apparently envisioning a situation similar to this one but obviously on a lower scale.
I (along with Kevin) went with Andrei Svechnikov, whose combination of skill, speed, physicality, and relentlessness is a microcosm of the Hurricanes’ team game, which I fear will give the Rangers all kinds of fits in this series. Shesterkin, though, could be the great equalizer for the Rangers as he has been pretty much all season during times when the team has otherwise struggled.
Who/What Will Be the Biggest X-Factor?
Tom D.: New York’s special teams. The Rangers will likely be outplayed and out-chanced for large swaths of five-on-five time, so they need to make up for that by performing well on special teams, which were strengths of theirs all season. Carolina had a good-but-not-great power play that ranked 13th in the league at 22.0 percent in the regular season, but their penalty kill was the best in the league 88.0 percent. The Rangers will need to find a way to break through with some consistency on the power play. If they do, they’ll have a chance in this series. But if the Hurricanes win the special teams battle to supplement their assumed advantage in generating chances at five-on-five, the Rangers’ season will come to a quick end.
From an individual player standpoint, I think Tyler Motte’s speed on the fourth line (or whichever lines he’s being moved up to at certain points) should give the Rangers an element they really need against a fast, aggressive Carolina team.
Looking at the Hurricanes, I think Vincent Trocheck is someone besides the stars (Aho and Svechnikov) who could be a pain for the Rangers throughout this series.
I might have given too many answers for this one, but it’s my question, so I’ll allow it.
Tom U.: Adam Fox. I think that it’s going to be interesting for him being in the playoffs for the first time against his “former team.” He had an interesting first round vs. the Penguins, and I think in this series he has the opportunity to be even more of a factor offensively, both on the power play and at even strength.
Mike: How beat up Ryan Lindgren is. Lindgren is used to playing hockey games missing a few pints of blood, but the Rangers are going to need him on the ice a lot on this series if they’re going to pull off an upset. I just don’t trust the third pair — it’s tacky and I hate it. I also went with Lindgren because I saw everyone else’s answers and wanted to do something different.
Joe: The Rangers’ power play. The unit failed to deliver in big-game moments (until it didn’t), especially in earlier games in the series where the Rangers needed a clicking power play to help mitigate some of the damage done by the team’s horrific defense. The Rangers are going to have a brutal time matching up against a very sound Carolina team that’s likely going to make the work the Penguins did look like child’s play. So the equalizer for the Rangers will be in net, and on the man-advantage,
Kevin: Artemiy Panarin. The Breadman scored the series winner in Game 7 against the Pens but oftentimes came across as hesitant to shoot and making one too many passes, which limited his effectiveness throughout the first round. Carolina is one of the deepest teams left in the playoffs, and the Rangers are going to need their big boys playing at their highest level if they are going to have a chance.
Jack: Can Igor Shesterkin stand on his head for four out of the next seven games? If he can, great! That’ll give the Rangers a fighting chance in this series. If not, Carolina is the better team skaters 1 all the way through 18, and anything less than excellence from Shesterkin will result in the Rangers exiting the playoffs in short order.
Leighann: Anyone on the Rangers over the age of 23. It’s no secret that a lot of the older guys on the team, the ones with playoff experience, and the ones we expected to do a bulk of the scoring against Pittsburgh...simply didn’t until something smacked them in the head in Game 5. If they collectively can turn it on a little bit earlier in this series, I think that will be the biggest difference maker. The Blueshirts were able to pull one, significant win from their season series with the Canes this year, and they can do it again if they can just keep out of their own heads and keep up.
Roberto: K’Andre Miller did not get the gratitude he deserved in the first round. For the Rangers to have a chance this series, Miller’s shutdown defense combined with his ability to transition and join the rush will have to come in clutch. While the Hurricanes dominated the Blueshirts during the regular season, this is the postseason, and anything can happen.
Brianna: Chris Kreider. He continues to be such an imperative player for this team. Even though he struggled in Games 3 and 4 of the first round against the Penguins, he posted five goals and two assists for the series. His scoring this year has been record-setting with 52 goals in the regular season. He is not afraid to get in front of the net and use his speed when need be. As a veteran, his energy on and off the ice brings a lot of excitement to the team, which begs the question: When will he get the C? It is his leadership mentality and qualities that make him the X-factor for me, as it is the feelings he evokes from his teammates that can make quite the difference during gameplay.
Who/What Are We Most Confident In?
Tom D.: Igor Shesterkin’s return to form in Game 7 against the Penguins has me optimistic that that’s the version of Shesterkin that we’ll see throughout this series. Carolina generates a ton of shots and chances, so the Rangers will need Shesterkin to be at his best. Otherwise, I am fairly confident that the Rangers will get more power plays than they did against the Penguins. The Hurricanes took 298 minor penalties in the regular season (the seventh-most in the league) — one negative side effect of their extremely aggressive style of play. Conversely, the Penguins took only 235 — the third-fewest. In the first round against the Boston Bruins, the Canes took 33 minor penalties, so almost five per game. The Rangers should have their chances with the man-advantage, but whether they can convert at a reasonable rate against Carolina’s stout penalty kill is another question (see my X-factor above).
Tom U.: The Rangers, by the numbers, shouldn’t have won in Round 1, but they moved on. That’s hockey sometimes. Their ability to manufacture wins up to this point, something that happens a lot in a sport like baseball, gives me confidence. They’ve won four games thus far despite not showing up for a full 60 minutes over the course of a game. I believe that the Hurricanes were tested by the Bruins, and the Rangers have an opportunity to build on what they learned in the first round. Starting this series on the road will throw the Rangers right into the series, and I feel that it presents an opportunity to get off on the right foot.
Mike: Igor, Fox, Kreids, Mika, and the babies. I love those babies. It should be illegal to rough Filip Chytil after the whistle. He looks like an awkward baby gazelle looking for its mother and I want to hold him to my bosom and keep him safe from the injustices of this miserable thing we call life.
Joe: The Kids Line doing their thing. They were — bar none — the most consistent form of good the Rangers had in the first round. Once Gerard Gallant started using them a little more the offense followed, and the Rangers have a ton of young weapons on this team that should stay together.
Kevin: Igor. No matter what, it will always be Igor. He bounced back after two rough starts against the Pens and he’s earned more than enough rope and confidence.
Jack: This is cheating, but not really anything. Everyone had faith in the Blueshirts winning the goaltending battle and although that happened in aggregate, Igor Shesterkin got yanked in back-to-back games. The Blueshirts aren’t in the second round without his performances in Games 6 and 7 against Pittsburgh, but if you can’t be confident in Shesterkin, there’s not really anything else to highlight.
Leighann: Maybe it’s naivety, or I’m still riding the high of the win over the Penguins but I just feel good about going into this series. I feel confident in a lot. The kids proved themselves, Igor pulled himself out of some early struggles and had a fantastic ending to that series, and the veteran leaders on the team finally woke up. It feels like this team has really embraced the “no quit” mentality, and when you’re already playing like you’ve got nothing to lose, and proving that you can pull yourself up when you're down, all bets are off and anything can happen. Check in with me again in a few days, but that all makes me feel unstoppable.
Roberto: Igor Shesterkin. Round 1 against the Penguins was Igor’s first taste of NHL playoff hockey. There were some bumps in the road, but he worked through them and showed up for the team when it mattered most. This series will be his chance to show the world just how elite his goaltending can be.
Brianna: Igor! He made the most saves in a series in the team’s history during the first round, with 252. After the two games in which he got pulled, he made a comeback with three straight wins. I typically put all of my trust/confidence in Igor anytime the Blueshirts hit the ice, and I think he is going to really shine after working through any of those first-round jitters. Everyone who watches hockey knows he is the best right now, but this series will be his opportunity to put his talents on full display, demonstrating why he’s a Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy finalist.
Who/What Are We Most Worried About?
Tom D.: Carolina’s ability to thoroughly control five-on-five play and choke the life out of the Rangers. This is the matchup I feared the most in the East — more than the Tampa Bay Lightning and more than the Florida Panthers. You could argue that the Rangers have bigger stars, but Carolina is extremely deep, and so well-coached; I think Rod Brind’Amour is the best coach in the NHL. The team plays a fast, relentless, and suffocating style, and seemingly never tires out. They are ultra-aggressive in their pressuring and forechecking but not irresponsible, as they don’t typically allow opponents much time and space to make plays. And to top it all off, they have a bevy of ex-Rangers who you just know will play great against their old team. Both in terms of team style and personnel, it’s as if the Hurricanes are specifically designed to make life miserable for the Rangers!
We saw how much the Blueshirts struggled against the Hurricanes this season. Yes, the two home games were a little better than the two road games in terms of underlying process, but when Carolina turns it up, I’m afraid the Rangers just can’t quite compete. That said, the Rangers did survive getting blasted at five-on-five against the Penguins in Round 1, so here’s to hoping they can do it again, and that my series prediction ends up being wrong.
Tom U.: Carolina has a lot of depth, and Rod the Bod is a really good coach. I think that there’s going to be a potential for the Hurricanes to get some very favorable matchups, and they likely will take more advantage of that than Pittsburgh was able to. There’s also the fact that the Hurricanes have this ability to frustrate their opponents and wear them down, and I wonder how a Rangers squad that played three emotional elimination games in a row will be able to react to that. It’s why I feel the first two games of the series are the most important, and will dictate how the rest of the series goes.
Mike: Everything? Yeah, everything. All signs point to the Rangers getting dominated at five-on-five and I just don’t know how much magic this team has left. I’m pretty sure they sold their collective souls to come back from being down 3-1 against the Penguins. I have a lot of questions about Gallant, the blue line, and this team’s over-dependence on the power play and its goaltending. The Hurricanes are a better hockey team.
Joe: I think Mike Sullivan handed Gallant his lunch in the first round, and that’s only going to get harder against Rod Brind’Amour. Carolina is so very good five-on-five that the home ice advantage is going to be a major issue even if Gallant is pushing all the right buttons. Gallant slowly figured out his best hand as the Penguins series went on, but he’s not going to have time to do that against Carolina. If he doesn’t figure it out early, the Hurricanes are going to wipe the floor with the Rangers.
Kevin: Gerard Gallant. In very simple terms, Artemiy Panarin saved Gerard Gallant’s bacon with that OT winner at MSG. Gallant spent most of the first round chasing the play, oftentimes running all four lines when it was clear that he needed to shorten his bench as the fourth line got steam-rolled again and again by Sidney Crosby and Friends all series long. Gallant will not have the luxury of facing off against a rather thin offensive corps this go-round, and Carolina is helmed by one of the better coaches in the league. Gallant needs to lean on his best players as often as possible and adapt quicker when things begin to turn, because Carolina has the depth to really shred the bottom six to ribbons and make this a short series.
Jack: Carolina’s forward depth is too much for the Rangers to handle. We saw it four times during the regular season as the Blueshirts went 1-3 against the Hurricanes. Even then, their lone win saw them get outshot by more than a two-to one margin, and Alexandar Georgiev (who won’t be getting any action barring catastrophe) played his best game of the season to steal a win in Raleigh. Max Domi looked to be a low-impact addition at the deadline for Carolina, and he scored two goals and added an assist in their Game 7 victory over Boston. The Rangers’ depth forwards aren’t quite up to snuff, and it’ll be an issue throughout this series.
Leighann: While I seem to have a little more hope than some people in this thread, there are still a few things I am worried about. One, like it’s been said before, the speed and forward depth of Carolina. It very well may be the case that they skate circles around the Rangers and beat them to the draw every time. They are a team that can just flat-out play. Two, the faceoff win percentage that the Rangers put on display for us all against Pittsburgh was abysmal...at best. You are always going to feel like you’re playing catch-up when you’re only winning 30-40 percent of faceoffs every game. The Rangers won’t recover as easily from that as they did against the Pens. Also, general burnout, playing in Raleigh, and Gerard Gallant’s mind not being in the moment, but I mean...hey...other than those things, we’re fine!
Roberto: Gallant and the Rangers’ defense. Though he did eventually make the right call in scratching Patrik Nemeth, Gallant made some very questionable lineup decisions on the Rangers’ back end. If he consistently plays Nemeth, the team will be exposed and outplayed quickly. He was also outcoached by Mike Sullivan throughout the first round, even with home-ice advantage. Gallant will need to be more conscious of his matchup decisions as they face off against a team that arguably has the most depth in the league.
Brianna: As we’ve all been saying, I am most worried about Carolina’s forward depth, their five-on-five play, and their special teams. Essentially I’m most worried about Aho, Svechnikov, and the speedy Trocheck. They swept the Rangers in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, and that still plays on repeat in my mind when I think about this upcoming matchup. Additionally, the Rangers did not play well against the Hurricanes during the regular season despite pulling one win out of four.
We’ve shared our thoughts. Who do you think will win this series, and in how many games?
Who will win this series?
This poll is closed
Rangers in 4
Rangers in 5
Rangers in 6
Rangers in 7
Hurricanes in 4
Hurricanes in 5
Hurricanes in 6
Hurricanes in 7