How long can a hot hand last without playing?
It’s been four months since the New York Rangers last played a meaningful game, and after Wednesday’s exhibition against the Islanders, they’re thrown straight into the deep waters that are the NHL playoffs.
While the Rangers’ strong finish to the 2019-20 regular season before the coronavirus pandemic halted play catapulted them into the league’s expanded postseason, they are the No. 11 seed out of 12 teams — meaning they have a tough matchup against the No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes in the best-of-five series.
That being said, the Rangers made easy work of their postseason counterparts during the regular season, sweeping all three games before play was halted.
That’s reason for higher expectations, especially when the Blueshirts are rolling with a Hart Trophy finalist in Artemi Panarin and a wealth of goaltending options.
Rangers vs. Hurricanes NHL Qualifier Schedule
Game 1: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, MSG/NBCSN
Game 2: Monday, Aug. 3, 12 p.m., MSG/NBCSN
Game 3: Tuesday, Aug. 4, 8 p.m., MSG/NBCSN
Game 4 (if necessary): Thursday, Aug. 6, TBD
Game 5 (if necessary): Saturday, Aug. 8, TBD
So, who has the advantage? We go through the lineup to see who has the upper hand before making a series prediction:
Rangers vs. Hurricanes breakdown, series prediction
Rangers 1st Line
- LW: Chris Kreider- 24 goals, 21 assists, 45 points
- C: Mika Zibanejad- 41 G, 34 A, 75 pts.
- RW: Pavel Buchnevich- 16 G, 30 A, 46 pts.
Hurricanes 1st Line
- LW: Andrei Svechnikov- 24 G, 37 A, 61 pts.
- C: Sebastian Aho- 38 G, 28 A, 66 pts.
- RW: Teuvo Teravainen- 15 G, 48 A, 63 pts.
Advantage: Hurricanes- While the Rangers spread the wealth, the Hurricanes roll their best horses out on the opening line. All three of their skaters flirted with a point-per-game pace this season before the pandemic hit.
Rangers 2nd Line
- LW: Artemi Panarin- 32 G, 63 A, 95 pts.
- C: Ryan Strome- 18 G, 41 A, 59 pts.
- RW: Jesper Fast- 12 G, 17 A, 29 pts.
Hurricanes 2nd Line
- LW: Ryan Dzingel- 8 G, 21 A, 29 pts.
- C: Jordan Staal- 8 G, 19 A, 27 pts.
- RW: Justin Williams- 8 G, 3 A, 11 pts. (20 games)
Advantage: Rangers- Artemi Panarin alone gives the Rangers the advantage here. His prolific first season with the Rangers has made him an MVP candidate while he makes those around him (Ryan Strome) that much better. He’s a force to be reckoned with in the Toronto bubble.
Rangers 3rd Line
- LW: Phil Di Giuseppe- 1 G, 3 A, 4 pts. (20 games)
- C: Filip Chytil- 14 G, 9 A, 23 pts.
- RW: Kaapo Kakko- 10 G, 13 A, 23 pts.
Hurricanes 3rd Line
- LW: Nino Niederreiter- 11 G, 18 A, 29 pts.
- C: Vincent Trochek- 11 G, 27 A, 38 pts.
- RW: Martin Necas- 16 G, 20 A, 36 pts.
Advantage: Hurricanes- A young, inexperienced Rangers’ third line could be worn down by the likes of Niederreiter and Trochek.
Rangers 4th Line
- LW: Brett Howden- 9 G, 10 A, 19 pts.
- C: Greg McKegg- 5 G, 4 A, 9 pts.
- RW: Julien Gauthier- 0 G, 2 A, 2 pts. (12 games)
Hurricanes 4th Line
- LW: Warren Foegele- 13 G, 17 A, 30 pts.
- C: Jordan Martinook- 2 G, 11 A, 13 pts.
- RW: Brock McGinn- 7 G, 10 A, 17 pts.
Advantage: Hurricanes- Matchups between these two lines will be slugfests. Both are fast and physical, but the Hurricanes hold the edge in skill and experience.
Brendan Smith – Jacob Trouba
Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox
Marc Staal – Anthony DeAngelo
Jaccob Slavin – Sami Vatanen
Brady Skjei – Joel Edmundson
Jake Gardiner – Trevor Van Riemsdyk
Advantage: Hurricanes- The blue line is the Blueshirts’ Achilles heel and it’s been that way for some time. While they are trending in the right direction, an overwhelming offensive style of play has a tendency to leave their goalies out to dry. We’ve seen the Hurricanes play an organized brand of defense in the past. After all, they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
- Igor Shesterkin- 10-2-0, .932 SV%, 2.52 GAA
- Henrik Lundqvist- 10-12-3, .905 SV%, 3.16 GAA
- Petr Mrazek- 21-16-2, .905 SV%, 2.69 GAA
- James Reimer- 14-6-2, .914 SV%, 2.66 GAA
Advantage: Rangers- Shesterkin is the next coming of a primer Henrik Lundqvist and they both owned the Hurricanes this year. Head coach David Quinn can’t make a bad decision in the crease at this point.
Series prediction: Hurricanes defeat Rangers in 5