New York Rangers vs Carolina Hurricanes NHL Series Odds and Expert Predictions
Ladies and gentlemen, hockey is back.
The goal for these preview pieces is to help inform you/remind you which team has the edge on both ends of the rink. I fully acknowledge the fact that because of the weird circumstances and the whole “bubble” thing with no real home-ice advantage, the stats before the lockdown and after the restart may not look similar at all. Teams will be rusty, and I expect teams to be a bit cautious as to how they attack the play-in round as they know one bad game could be the end of the line for them.
This series between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes figures to be one of the most intriguing play-in series. Both of these teams were scratching and clawing for a wild-card spot as the Hurricanes occupied wild-card spot No. 1 with 81 points and the Rangers weren’t too far behind, sitting just two points back on 79 points (played two more games). Both teams believe they have the edge in the series and believe they can win this advance to the next round.
What does Vegas think? Well, heading into this series, the Hurricanes are -140 series favorites and -130 favorites in Game 1. The Canes check-in at +4500 to win the Stanley Cup, while the Rangers slot in at +3300.
Goaltending & Defence
The Carolina Hurricanes have been getting timely goaltending all season long, and that includes from emergency back-up David Ayres, who got the win against his former employer – the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thankfully for the Hurricanes, Petr Mrazek is healthy and ready to go for this series, and he’s played well this season, posting a 21-16-2 record with a 2.69 GAA and a .905 save percentage. With Mrazek holding up his end of the deal, the team defense has been nothing short of stellar. They rank 11th in goals against at 2.84, and they ranked second in shots on goal allowed at just 29.3. They have a solid penalty kill, which I’ll touch on a bit later. However, if you’re looking for a team that can shut down the opposition, the Hurricanes may very well be the team you need to be betting on.
As for the Rangers, they have turned the keys to the car over to Igor Shesterkin, and he hasn’t disappointed. The young Russian has posted a 10-2 record with a 2.51 GAA and a .932 save percentage. He’s taken the reigns from Henrik Lundqvist, and we see no way of him relinquishing the starting role. As a team, the Rangers need to be much better in front of whatever goalie is between the pipes as they give up 3.14 goals per game (23rd) on roughly 34 shots on goal per game (30th). The Rangers also need to stay disciplined and not take penalties as they are one of the most penalized teams in the league, and that’s something I’ll discuss below.
Offense & Special Teams
Carolina is essentially a cast of misfits that have bought into a system and belief in a head coach that’s seen and done almost everything in this league. The Canes are led in scoring by Sebastian Aho, who has 66 points (38/28) in just 68 games played. He has a bit of help around him with the likes of Teuvo Teravainen (63 points) and Andrei Svechnikov (61 points). After that, the scoring dips immensely with a defenseman, Dougie Hamilton, next in line with 40 points. As a team, the Canes are in the upper third in goals per game at 3.19, and they average 33.3 shots on goal per game, which is good enough for third amongst 32 NHL teams. Their special teams are something that could make or break them for this round and beyond. The Canes rank eighth in power-play percentage, scoring on 22.3 percent of their opportunities. Their penalty kill is also among the best, checking in at 84 percent kill rate, which is fourth league-wide.
As for the Rangers, because they are so poor on the defensive side of the puck, their offense needs to pick up the slack in order to have them in the position they are in today. They average 3.33 goals per game (fifth) and have the second-best shooting percentage in the league (10.7). Their powerplay is just a fraction better than Carolina’s, connecting on 22.9 percent of their chances, which puts them seventh overall. As for their penalty kill, they have a serious issue as they rank 23rd in the league on the PK, and are also 31st in penalty minutes per game at 11.2. If they can’t stay disciplined and stay out of the box, the Hurricanes could be well on their way to a series victory. From an individual perspective, Artemi Panarin leads the Rangers with 95 points (32g/63a). He’s got help in the form of Mika Zibanejad (75 points) and Ryan Strome (59 points).
Edge: New York
This is going to be an extremely close series, and there are many factors that may come into play when the series is over. Can the Rangers stay out of the penalty box? Can the Hurricanes’ defense continue to shut the door and not give up very many shots? Will the young Rangers’ goalie hold up under the first pressure-packed situation of his career? To me, this has five games written all over it, but I think the more complete team is the Hurricanes and I’ll take them as a small favorite to get the series win.
Pick: Carolina in five.
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