The Carolina Hurricanes have one of the deepest roster of skaters in the league and after escaping their first-round series mostly unscathed, they will look to prove themselves again as they take on the New York Rangers in the second-round of the NHL playoffs.
The Rangers on the other hand, have some of the brightest star power in the game on their roster with the likes of Adam Fox, Artemiy Panarin and Igor Shesterkin, but how does the rest of the roster pan out?
The biggest question mark for the Rangers throughout the season was the depth behind their stars, but after adding a handful of quality players at the trade deadline, New York has had a much more potent roster.
However, they still lack consistency of execution, constantly being outchanced and outshot, but when you have a star goaltender, you can weather the storm and then the skillset of their top players allows them to strike quickly and in succession.
It will be an interesting matchup of two totally different playstyles going head to head.
Projected Carolina Hurricanes Lineup
Andrei Svechnikov - Sebastian Aho - Seth Jarvis
Teuvo Teravainen - Vincent Trocheck - Max Domi
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Steven Lorentz - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Martin Necas
Jaccob Slavin - Tony DeAngelo
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Ian Cole - Brendan Smith
Extras: Derek Stepan, Ethan Bear, Jordan Martinook (IR)
Projected New York Rangers Lineup
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Frank Vatrano
Artemi Panarin - Ryan Strome - Andrew Copp
Alexis Lafreniere - Filip Chytil - Kaapo Kakko
Tyler Motte - Kevin Rooney - Ryan Reaves
Ryan Lindgren - Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller - Jacob Trouba
Justin Braun - Braden Schneider
Extras: Patrik Nemeth, Dryden Hunt, Greg McKegg, Jonny Brodzinski, Barclay Goodrow (IR)
The Hurricanes are going to need more from their top line in this series. Against the Bruins, the line had a 47.90 CF% and combined for only four even-strength goals across the seven-game series.
The Bruins were one of the best defensive teams in the league though, and the Rangers are certainly not that.
However, with the Vezina-likely Igor Shesterkin in net for the Rangers, Carolina is going to need it’s best players to be at top form to break through.
Luckily, it seems Carolina’s second line is starting to really emerge, completely taking over Game 7 to help propel the Canes to victory. If they can keep that chemistry flowing, it will be good times for the Hurricanes.
On the other side, the Rangers have been such a top heavy team for so long, it will be interesting to see how Carolina can match up to and defend that.
Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider carried their team through the first round with most of their goals coming in bunches off the rush or a faceoff win. Frank Vatrano has mostly played alongside them since coming over, but Tyler Motte has made appearances on the top-line as well to give them some more defensive support.
Artemi Panarin has been hot and cold throughout the postseason and Ryan Strome has been good, but nothing to write home about, but newcomer Andrew Copp is fitting in nicely with the second line and giving them some offensive production alongside much needed defensive support.
If the Rangers get their top guns rolling, it will be a tall task to suppress them. The top of the Rangers lineup is fast and talented, so the defense and especially the goaltending will need to be locked in.
This is the area where the Hurricanes can try to really set themselves apart again.
The Jordan Staal line, is the Jordan Staal line.
It forechecks, it hits, it cycles and it’s just such a hassle to play against. The Rangers don’t have a line that can successfully match up to the Staal line’s game and so they should be able to wear New York down time and time again.
Every goal they produce is a cherry on top, when more than likely they will be tasked with shutting down New York’s top guys.
However, a line that may get the Rangers some added depth scoring, is their newly dubbed “Kid Line,” which is composed of three first-round picks from the last five years. The line has found tremendous chemistry and it was one of New York’s most consistent even-strength lines in the first-round against Pittsburgh.
The hope for Carolina is that their inexperience may hold them back, but they look to be quite a handful.
The Rangers’ fourth line could see a rotation of players as Vatrano and Motte have swapped places throughout the playoffs. Motte is a defensive specialist and Vatrano can create a lot out of a little with his dangerous wrist shot.
Past those two though, and with Barclay Goodrow unlikely to come back from his ankle injury, the only other bottom line player Carolina has to worry about is Ryan Reaves simply because of the enforcer’s physical edge.
For Carolina, Jesperi Kotkaniemi has shown flashes this postseason, but hadn’t been able to get it to translate quite yet. The same can be seen for Martin Necas, who has been demoted down to the fourth line. He has moments of brilliance, but he has been way too inconsistent this season.
If Carolina can get either of those two to start getting their chances to go, it may be a quick series.
It still to be seen who Rod Brind’Amour decides to go with alongside those two for Game 1 though. If Jordan Martinook is healthy, it should be expected that he’d go in. If not either of Derek Stepan or Steven Lorentz will do fine.
The Rangers’ defense is led by last year’s Norris Trophy winner, Adam Fox. He is second on the team in playoff points and has just been one of the game’s most promising and dynamic blueline talents.
His defensive partner, Ryan Lindgren, is a physical and dependable presence, although he is dealing with injury issues currently.
The Hurricanes should expect to see this pair quite frequently though.
For Carolina, their top pair wreaked havoc on the Bruins in the first-round with Jaccob Slavin showcasing that he is in fact one of the best defensive talents in the NHL as well as being tied with Tony DeAngelo for the team lead in points.
The pair is just so dynamic at creating offense, that it will hopefully be hard for the Rangers to keep up. And if there is a slip up by the Carolina forecheck, usually Slavin can be guaranteed to shutdown that potent New York rush.
The Rangers’ second pair is made up of the offensively dynamic K’Andre Miller, whose strong skating and stickwork make him a threat whenever he has the puck, and Jacob Trouba, the large body defender.
The pair have seen heavy logs throughout the postseason with Miller really breaking out this season as an exciting player to watch. Trouba has morphed his game into more of a defensive stalwart with a physical edge, but he is still capable of contributing offensively.
On the Hurricanes side, Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei, while being seen as the second pair, is still Carolina’s go-to shutdown pair.
The two are certainly an “everything is happening” type of pair, but you can’t argue against results. They’ve been dependable all season, and Carolina is going to need them once again.
The Rangers bottom duo is composed of 20-year old Braden Schneider, and one of either Justin Braun or Patrik Nemeth. Their youngest and oldest defensemen on the same pair. This has lead to a lot of interesting situations when they are out on the ice, with sometimes there being an inexperienced mistakes or maybe the other one is too slow to cover an opponent.
But Schneider is a big-body with a promising skillset, so he should be noted when he’s on the ice and although Braun and Nemeth are well past their peaks, they still know the game and can play well enough.
But this is definitely the pair to take advantage of for Carolina.
And the Canes’ bottom pair, has been surprisingly good for Carolina, as both Ian Cole and Brendan Smith were rock solid against the Bruins proving their experience and determination to do whatever it took to keep pucks out of their own net.
They play hard in front of the net and don’t shy away from physicality. Speed is their one weakness though and it’s what the Rangers love to capitalize on, so maybe this could be the series where we see Ethan Bear make his Hurricanes playoff debut.