Hurricanes vs Rangers: Playoff Preview by the Numbers

A playoff series that seemed to be inevitable is finally here. After the Rangers spent the majority of the 2023-24 regular season staving off the Carolina Hurricanes for the Metropolitan Division crown, the two teams won their respective first round playoff series in convincing fashion and are now set to clash in the second round.

New York's reward for winning the Presidents' Trophy was drawing the Washington Capitals in the opening round. Washington entered the playoffs as one of the worst teams to qualify for the playoffs since the early 1990s, and didn't put up much of a fight as the Blueshirts rattled off four consecutive victories on the back of strong special teams to sweep the Capitals out of the postseason.

Carolina earned a first round rematch with the New York Islanders in the 2/3 matchup after squaring off in a 1/WC series last year. It took the Hurricanes six games to oust the Isles in 2023, but Rod Brind'Amour's squad dispatched the Rangers' little brother in five games this time around, securing a gentleman's sweep two days after the Blueshirts finished off their own sweep.

The stage has been set for this rematch of the 2022 Metropolitan Division finals, a series that saw the Rangers announce to the hockey world that their rebuild was officially over by toppling Carolina in seven games to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. While familiar faces populate both rosters two years later, there are plenty of new faces for both teams to add new storylines to this matchup between two of the NHL's top teams.

When we examined how the Rangers stacked up against the Capitals, there was a lot more green than red on New York's side of the ledger. Such is the difference between a bottom of the barrel playoff team in Washington and the betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup since the playoffs began, that being Carolina. The Hurricanes have historically been a dominant even-strength team since Brind'Amour took over as head coach ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, and that was the case once again this season.

While Carolina has earned somewhat of a reputation as "Corsi merchants" for their playstyle, the Corsi Canes come at teams in waves. Carolina usually stays away from big ticket rental acquisitions at the trade deadline, but opted to empty the piggy bank (or prospect pool in this case) to land Jake Guentzel from Pittsburgh, the premier talent on this season's rental market that the Blueshirts also pursued, but were outbid by the Hurricanes in the end.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was also acquired at the deadline in a deal with Washington, and although he's seen better days, Kuznetsov still has his moments of offensive magic from time to time. Those two late season additions, the continued presence of Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho up top, as well as further development from Martin Necas and Seth Jarvis over the past two years, have helped Carolina's forward corps establish itself as the league's deepest. Former Ranger Jesper Fast will not skate in the series, as an injury suffered in the final game of the regular season will keep him out for the remainder of Carolina's time in the playoffs.

The blueliners are lead by a mix of familiar faces and some new additions. Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce (who will miss the beginning of the series), as well as former Rangers Tony DeAngelo and Brady Skjei are still here. The Hurricanes have added the high-octane Brent Burns and paired him with the ever-steady defensively Slavin, and Dmitry Orlov skates as arguably the league's best third pairing defenseman thanks to the depth in front of him.

Frederik Andersen did not tend goal in the 2022 playoffs or the majority of this past regular season, but he has been sharp since returning to his team in March after dealing with a blood clotting issue, and will be Carolina's starting netminder.

All of those pieces comprised the key cogs of one of the most dominant teams under the hood that the league has seen since 2007, when shot and scoring chance data became available. Carolina became only the 2nd team to eclipse the 60% Corsi For% mark over an 82 game season since then, with the 22-23 Hurricanes being the only other team to do so. For the criticisms volleyed in their direction about being a quantity over quality team, only Edmonton finished with a higher share of Expected Goals during the regular season.

Much has been made of New York riding to the top of the standings on the back of strong special teams play, and that's an accurate assessment. Unfortunately for the Blueshirts, Carolina's special teams are on par with, if not a tad better than theirs.

The power play units were about equal during both the regular season and each team's respective first round series, and Carolina's penalty killing unit had the edge in the regular season before taking a bit of a dip in the first round, which was surprising given the Isles' poor special teams units. The Rangers stronger penalty differential likely gives them the edge in what is otherwise a coin flip battle of special teams, as Carolina's +2 differential on that end is a tad inflated after drawing six more penalties than the Islanders in that five game series, while the Rangers took one more penalty than the Capitals in their four game clash.

For outside perspective, you'll find a mixed bag of opinions on the series, but more analysts are in Carolina's corner after the Rangers were heavy favorites across the hockey world in the opening world. Both Micah Blake McCurdy's and Dom Luszczyszyn's models see the Hurricanes as approximately 2:1 favorites, with both models landing on the exact same 66-34 win probability for Carolina and New York.

Dom and other Athletic staffers detailed why their model has the Hurricanes as such heavy favorites, (paywall) and they are more bullish on Carolina than other outlets. Sportsbook odds vary from book to book and change as money comes in on either side, but the implied odds on each team's prices are those of something closer to a 60-40 win probability split. All of the above entities also list Carolina as the current Stanley Cup favorite.

The shock of the century is that MoneyPuck's model, yes, the same MoneyPuck that some Rangers fans will swear by it hating on and perpetually underrating the Blueshirts, likes their chances. While the odds have shifted a tad here and there over the preceding days, MoneyPuck's model gives the Rangers approximately a 56% chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, and have the Rangers ever so slightly ahead of the Edmonton Oilers as Cup favorites entering the second round.

For all the numbers and statistics that go into projections, projections I'm a firm believer in, there's one thing about this series I haven't been able to get out of my head. The tale of the tape was similarly disproportionate in Carolina's favor two years ago, and I anticipated the Rangers getting their doors blown off and bowing out meekly in five games.

The Hurricanes had their moments in that series, most notably the third period of Game 1 to tie and eventually win in overtime, and the entirety of Game 5 to push New York to the brink of elimination. In totality though, the Rangers hung with the Hurricanes about as well as one could've expected and did enough to pull out the series win. I can't say I spend a ton of my free time during the regular season watching other teams, but ***EYE TEST ALERT*** I've never come away more unimpressed with an opposing team relative to my expectations going in than I did with Carolina in 2022.

The makings of a series where Carolina runs roughshod over New York are there once again. In opposition to that notion, all the pieces the Rangers need to keep up with the Canes and edge out a series victory just as they did two springs ago are still here. Can they do it again? There's only one way to find out, so sit back and enjoy the show.

PREDICTION: Rangers over Hurricanes in seven games

*Data via Evolving Hockey and