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Breaking Down the Rangers: Hurricanes’ Power Play Should Feast on Paper, but Results Varied Against Rangers

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The Canes went 2-for-17 against the Rangers during the regular season, but will things change in the play-in round?

NHL: New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

2019-20 By the Numbers

Hurricanes Power Play

  • 46 goals on 206 attempts
  • 22.3% (8th in the NHL)

Hurricanes Top Power Play Producers

  • Teuvo Teravainen (4 goals, 17 assists, 21 points)
  • Andrei Svechnikov (6 goals, 14 assists, 20 points)
  • Sebastian Aho (8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points)
  • Dougie Hamilton (2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points)
  • Nino Niederreiter (4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points)
  • Jake Gardiner (1 goal, 10 assists, 11 points)

Rangers Penalty Kill

  • 52 goals allowed on 230 penalty kills
  • 77.4% (23rd in the NHL)

There are a lot of areas where the Hurricanes don’t match up well with the Rangers, but this side of the special teams battle shouldn’t be one.

It shouldn’t be.

On paper, the Canes should feast upon the Rangers’ penalty kill, but it played out differently in the clubs’ four meetings this season.

Carolina went 2-for-17 on the man advantage against New York during the regular season, good for an abysmal 11.8% efficiency rate.

On the whole, the Canes’ power play was hugely improved from the 2018-19 season. Hamilton’s presence on the first unit brought some real life to the group, and the multi-dimensional offensive play from Svechnikov and Teravainen combined for a dynamic three-man group on the outside, opening up real estate inside the dots for Aho and the likes of Niederreiter, Justin Williams, Ryan Dzingel, and Erik Haula.

The trio of Hamilton, Svechnikov, and Teravainen were lethal on the power play with their brilliant passing plays at the top of the offensive zone. With Hamilton in the middle, Svech and Turbo showed off their elite vision and passing abilities from one side of the ice to the other. All three players were a threat to shoot the puck or pass the puck, and they were profoundly impactful in the Carolina power play’s journey from awful to really good.

The Canes went from a team that saw their play on the man advantage make the difference in losses to a team that made it a real weapon in pulling out wins. Again, Hamilton’s emergence into the number one defenseman on the top unit played a far-reaching role in that development, and while it took the removal of Faulk for that to finally happen, it did happen.

In the teams’ most recent matchup in February, the Rangers held the Canes to zero goals on five power plays.

The top unit for New York’s PK consisted of Ryan Strome, Mika Zibanejad, Marc Staal, and Ryan Lindgren. Of course, the speed and counter attack potential that Zibanejad can bring is intimidating, and it was very apparent in the teams’ matchups this season.

Beyond that, the Hurricanes’ speed and skill should be able to tame that potential, especially since he is an analytically weak penalty killer.

On the whole, New York allows a rampant number of shots from the crease, which is where the Canes love to drive, by way of those far-out passing plays that lead to open lanes onto the net where one or two forwards are drifting around and pose threats in tight.

Getting the puck to the net will be a must-do for the Canes, especially with how dominant Rangers goaltenders have played against them. They can’t cycle off a bunch of long-range shots with no net-front presence. They can’t be easy to play against on the man advantage.

Something that worked very well for the Hurricanes this season was their layered screens. Having multiple layers of net-front distractions will make those point shots from the likes of Hamilton, Gardiner, and the newly acquired Sami Vatanen much more dangerous. Goalies can’t see the shot, and if they get lucky and get a piece of the shot, collapsing from the forwards can lead to rebound goals while the goalie is still unaware of the puck’s location.

Hamilton not practicing on Thursday is concerning, but if he is good to go, that leaves a group of Niederreiter, Dzingel, Vincent Trocheck, Martin Necas, Gardiner, and Vatanen to choose from for the second unit.

New York’s second PK unit consists of Jesper Fast and Brett Howden with Jacob Trouba factoring in on the back end. Brendan Lemieux also sees PK time, but he is suspended for the first two games of the series for his bad hit on Joonas Donskoi back in March.

On paper, the Hurricanes’ power play should find success against the Rangers penalty kill, but as we’ve seen so many times over the years, when the Canes take on the Rags, the game takes on a life of its own.