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Breaking down the Rangers: Limiting Panarin, Zibanejad on PP will be key to Carolina success

After struggling mightily against the Ranger’s power play in the regular season, the normally strong Carolina penalty kill will need to step up to stop the deadly duo of Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin.

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

By the Numbers

Rangers Power Play

PP Goals: 54

PP Opportunities: 227

PP Percentage: 22.9%

League Rank: Seventh

Rangers PP Points Leaders

Mika Zibanejad (15-12-27)

Artemi Panarin (7-17-24)

Tony DeAngelo (3-16-19)

Ryan Strome (3-14-17)

Adam Fox (1-12-13)

Hurricanes Penalty Kill

PP Goals Allowed: 39

PP Opportunities Allowed: 243

SH Goals Scored: 10

PK Percentage: 84%

League Rank: Fourth

As we look forward to the resumption of Hurricanes hockey, let’s take a look at how the Canes’ penalty kill matches up with the power play of the New York Rangers, the squad Carolina will take on in the first round of the expanded playoffs on Aug. 1.

When the Hurricanes go down a man, it’ll be a battle of strengths on paper between Carolina and New York, though the Canes did struggle mightily against the Rangers PP this year. The Rangers boasted a power play percentage of 22.9%, good for seventh best in the NHL in the 2019-20 regular season. On the other hand, the Canes killed penalties at a rate of 84%, the fourth-highest mark in the NHL.

It’s a strength for both teams, and it’s a situation that could come up quite a bit in a five-game series. The Hurricanes were the most penalized team in the NHL, going shorthanded 3.57 times per game. The Rangers did a great job at drawing penalties, drawing 3.24 per game, the sixth-highest mark in the league. If those regular season numbers are any indication of what is to come, the Rangers will spend quite a bit of time up a man in this upcoming series.

As is the case with the Rangers’ full strength offense as well, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad are what really makes New York’s power play churn. Zibanejad’s 27 power-play points were the eighth most in the league this season, and Panarin wasn’t too far behind with 24.

Defenseman Tony DeAngelo played a big role from the back of the Rangers’ top power-play unit, picking up 16 assists on a unit that also featured Ryan Strome and Chris Kreider. New York’s second unit was anchored by former Canes’ prospect Adam Fox, who had 13 assists to lead the unit.

That top power-play line is one that could really be a killer for the Hurricanes, who will likely be missing one of its best penalty killers in Brett Pesce. The addition of Brady Skjei will help ease the void of Pesce for the Canes, as Skjei was one of the go-to PK guys for the Rangers before he was traded. Sami Vatanen can also fill in that role, while Joel Edmundson will still be there for Carolina after being the third-most utilized penalty killer for the Canes in the regular season, behind Slavin and Pesce.

Offensively, Jordan Staal is the Canes’ PK stalwart, while Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Warren Foegele all put in good time on the PK as well. With Slavin as the anchor of the whole group, the Canes showed they know how to kill penalties in the regular season.

Let’s take a look at where the Rangers excel on the PP, and at how good the Canes are at limiting opportunities down a man.

Micah Blake McCurdy
Micah Blake McCurdy

There’s good news and bad news here for the Canes. The good news is that Carolina has done a pretty strong job of limiting opportunities from the left circle, the place on the ice where the Rangers power play has done the most damage, thanks almost entirely to Panarin. Panarin is so dangerous from that side, and limiting his opportunities from there will be a huge deciding factor in whether or not the Canes can limit New York’s success on the PP.

An example of Panarin’s abilities, with this one coming against the Canes:

The bad news for the Hurricanes here is that Carolina is most susceptible to danger on the PK right in front of net, another particularly dangerous area on the ice for the Rangers PP units. This is where Zibanejad can really play a factor, as shown here in a great power-play goal that features Panarin, in the left circle, feeding Zibanejad in the middle.

Limiting that area right in front of net on the PK will be the most important thing for the Hurricanes when they go down a man. If Zibanejad is allowed to get into the crease and score on the power play, it could be a quick end to the Canes’ 2020 playoff run.

So, how did the Hurricanes do at limiting those power-play opportunities for the Rangers during the regular season? Frankly, quite terribly. In four games against the Canes, all wins for the Rangers, New York went on the power play 15 times. The Rangers scored during five of those man advantages, a 33% clip against Carolina. Every single one of the Canes’ four losses to the Rangers had a New York power-play goal.

And where did the Rangers score those chances from? Exactly where they are the strongest, as shown above. Four of those five PP goals came from around the crease, with three of those being scored by Zibanejad. The other came off the stick of Panarin, from the left circle.

On this first one, Brendan Lemieux gets himself positioned right in front of Petr Mrazek to deflect a point shot from DeAngelo.

Now come the three from Zibanejad, all scored in front of or next to the crease.

Again, Carolina’s ability to limit the damage of Zibanejad and Panarin specifically on the power play will be a huge key in the Hurricanes’ success in the series. If the Canes can lock down on the PK better than they did against New York in the regular season, it’ll mean great things for Carolina. If the Rangers’ PP is able to get opportunities, create chances and capitalize, it’ll spell doom for the Canes’ hopes of making a second straight deep run in the playoffs.

One final thing to explore in this matchup is a strength for the Canes, though one that probably won’t come into play in a five-game series. Carolina’s 10 shorthanded goals in 2019-20 were the second most in the NHL, as Sebastian Aho’s four was tied for the league lead. Warren Foegele was just behind Aho with three.

It’s unlikely that a shorthanded goal will come in a short series, but it is something the Canes have a knack for. The Rangers were middle of the pack in SHG against this season, allowing just six.

After all those videos of the Rangers cutting through the Canes’ power play, here’s Aho scoring some shorthanded goals to leave things on a sweeter note for Hurricanes fans.