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Second-Round Preview: Special Teams

The Carolina Hurricanes will look to fix some special teams issues from the first round against the Rangers.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

After each team won a contentious first-round series in game seven, the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers are getting set to faceoff in the second round with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals on the line.

Things will get underway Wednesday night in PNC Arena, as the Canes will once again have the home-ice advantage looking to improve on their perfect 4-0 playoff start in Raleigh.

As is always the case, special teams will play a huge role in this second-round series. The Hurricanes had some special teams issues in the first round, particularly on the road in Boston, while the Rangers scored on the power play in five of seven games in the first round including Artemi Panarin’s game-seven overtime winner.

So, let’s take a look at home the Rangers and the Canes matchup when someone is in the box:

Carolina Hurricanes

Overview

I took a deep dive on the Hurricanes’ regular season special teams play here before the first round, so take a look back at that and we’ll focus on what went right, and what didn’t, for the Canes in seven games against the Bruins in this piece.

On the power play, the Hurricanes had a pretty rough series against Boston. Carolina went 5 for 36 with the man advantage (14%), going just 1 for 16 with the man advantage in the three games played in Boston.

On the penalty kill, the Canes had a 79% conversion rate as Boston was able to score some critical power-play goals throughout the series. Again, it was a day and night difference on the road for the Hurricanes, as five of Boston’s six power-play goals came in TD Garden.

Power Play

The Hurricanes’ power play had a series to forget in round one, taking away any real hope of a win in Boston during the three games on the road.

After going 2 for 12 with the man advantage in games one and two at home, the Canes went to Boston and went 0 for 10 in games three and four. After scoring two on the power play at home in a big game five win, the Canes went to Boston and went 1 for 6 in game six with the one coming in the final minutes of an already decided game.

The Canes had some 5-on-3s that they couldn’t do anything with during the series as well, and they even let up a shorthanded goal in game three in Boston.

Natural Stat Trick

The power play has got to be better, something the Canes said after all three losses in the first round. When on the road in the playoffs, every power-play opportunity is a chance to steal some momentum. The Canes simply couldn’t do that in the first round.

So, what’s the issue? Well, a lot. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing, but some opportunities have been squandered due to too much passing. Others simply never got going.

Natural Stat Trick
Natural Stat Trick

DeAngelo and Slavin, the two QBs, were involved in all five goals the Hurricanes’ scored on the power play in the first round, but the volume of contribution from them (and everyone, really) wasn’t where it needed to be.

The Canes’ power play is frustrating because when it has a good outing, it’s a testament to the talent and ability the units have. It makes sense that this team should be good on the power play, and it really can be. But inconsistency is killing it.

Rod Brind’Amour did a little bit of moving things around in the first round, bumping Seth Jarvis to PP1 a little bit with Andrei Svechnikov falling back. Svechnikov did score the lone PPG in Boston, though.

Penalty Kill

The Canes’ penalty kill, while maybe not quite as good as it was in the regular season, was actually fine in the first round.

While Boston did score six times with the man advantage, four of those came in games three and four where the Bruins had 14 combined power plays.

As a whole, the Canes PK did its job. It nearly killed off a long 5-on-3 and did kill off another 5-on-3 at one point, and the issue in Boston was less about the penalty kill itself and much moreso about the incredible amount of penalties the Canes took. When you give a playoff team nine power plays in one game, its probably going to score a couple.

New York Rangers

Overview

The New York Rangers were a very, very good special teams squad during the regular season, one of just four teams in the NHL to have a top-10 power play and penalty kill and one of just two teams (St. Louis) to be in the top seven in both.

At 25.2% on the power play, the Rangers were the fourth best team in the NHL with an extra man despite having the fourth fewest power-play opportunities of any team in the league. At an 82.3% kill rate, the Rangers were seventh in the NHL while also being the eighth-most penalized team in the league.

Micah Blake McCurdy, HockeyViz

Power Play

One of the biggest reasons for New York’s power-play success over the course of the regular season was the unfathomable rise of Chris Kreider, who scored 26 of his 52 goals during the regular season on the PP.

The top unit for the Rangers has consisted mostly of Kreider, Panarin, Ryan Strome, Mika Zibanejad and is run by Adam Fox, one of if not the best offensive defensemen in the NHL.

That group scored a ridiculous 51 of New York’s 56 power-play goals in the regular season, as a rotating second unit really didn’t play much of a factor as PP1 simply dominated other teams.

Micah Blake McCurdy, HockeyViz

In their first-round series against the Penguins, the Rangers power play went 6 for 19 (32%) and scored a goal in five of seven games. The Rangers tallied twice on the PP on the road in a must-win game six, and then Panarin bagged the overtime winner in game seven on the man advantage.

Of those six power-play goals, Panarin, Kreider, Fox, Zibanejad and Strome all had one goal, while Filip Chytil did contribute one for the second unit.

The star-studded PP1 for the Rangers is a force to be reckoned with, that much is for sure.

Penalty Kill

The Rangers penalty kill is also pretty solid, finishing seventh in the NHL in the regular season while killing off greater than 82% of their penalties.

Barclay Goodrow, Zibanejad and Kreider were the most active forwards on New York’s penalty kill, while Tyler Motte and Kevin Rooney also did a ton of the work.

Micah Blake McCurdy, HockeyViz

In the first round against the Penguins, Pittsburgh went 6 for 23 on the power play as New York posted a kill % of 74%.

When it mattered at the end, the Penguins actually did some good things against New York’s penalty kill, as Pittsburgh scored two of its game seven goals with the extra man. Danton Heinen tied the game at 1-1 in the first period on the power play, while Jake Guentzel made it 2-1 Pittsburgh in the second.

The Matchup

Thanks mostly to its suffocating penalty kill, the Hurricanes have had the clear-cut special teams advantage most of the season.

However, that edge probably goes to the Rangers as the two teams head into this series, as New York’s above-average penalty kill holds a big edge on the Canes’ mediocre power play while the Rangers exceptional power play will be enough to at least challenge Carolina’s league-best penalty kill.

In the regular season, New York went 2 for 12 on the power play in four games against the Hurricanes. The Canes went 2 for 9.

It was a bit of a weird special teams season in the series between the two though, as all four power play goals scored between the two came in a 6-3 Carolina win on Jan. 21. In the other three games against each other, New York and Carolina combined to go 0 for 16 on the power play.

As the Canes and Rangers head into this series, the special teams battle is simple. Will the Canes’ dominant penalty kill be able to keep New York’s dangerous power play in check, and will Carolina’s sputtering power play be able to do anything against a relatively good penalty kill from the Rangers?