Hurricanes approach for round 2 playoff matchup vs. the Rangers
“Comeback kids” has long been an overused sports trope – but it embodies the playoff start for the New York Rangers.
The team was the second youngest to make the playoffs with an average age of 26.44 (according to Elite Prospects), and they battled back down 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins to win game 7 in an overtime classic.
They are the 31st NHL team to complete a 3-0 or 3-1 comeback. They accomplished the same task in 2014 (against the Penguins) and again in 2015 (against the Capitals).
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The Carolina Hurricanes, their second-round opponents, are also young (27.35 average age, according to Elite Prospects) and feature some beloved Rangers from past playoff runs in Jesper Fast and Derek Stepan. Ex-Rangers Antti Raanta, Brady Skjei and Brenden Smith are also on the team – as well as heel Tony DeAngelo, the puck-moving defensemen exiled by the Blueshirts in early 2021. He allegedly fought with Rangers’ backup Alexandar Georgiev after a loss.
Game 1 will play out Wednesday night in Raleigh, North Carolina, at 7 p.m.
News 12’s Kevin Maher spoke with Steve Valiquette, former Rangers goalie and current MSG analyst, about the first-round comeback and the tough upcoming matchup.
KM: How impressed were you with the Rangers' comeback in round 1?
SV: I couldn't believe when I saw the note that they set an NHL record when trailing 3-1 – no team had ever come back in all three of those games and won game 7. The moments were never too big, nothing bothered them or phased them. Now you have to play against a Carolina group that likes to shoot the puck a lot and their style is going to fit Igor's best.
KM: What do you mean by that when it comes to the Rangers goalie?
SV: Carolina will be shooting everything. And I don’t have the stat list in front of me, but I know when Shesterkin faces 40 or more shots, he wins.
I think he’s going to get a lot of action, be warm and be in tune with what’s going on out there. They're going to be collapsing hard on him, but if he's tuned in, he'll be able to handle it. He's had the highest save percentage on rebounds the last two years. This guy knows how to move better than anybody.
KM: While Carolina looks for rebounds and bounces, how can the Rangers attack? Where is Carolina weak?
SV: I think you have to try them off the rush. What’s unique about this team is that they gave up the 31st most breakaways this season. Only one team gave up more breakaways than Carolina. I had to take a second look at that. They gave up 130 breakaways this year. They are not going to change the way they play. This is the way they are. Breakaway goals are big goals. They lift the bench. For whatever reason, I believe those goals are big momentum shifters. So, in a series that’s going to be tight, I'm waiting to see if the Rangers can capitalize on those breakaways.
Here are some stats as per The Associated Press to get you ready for round 2.
Carolina has gone 54-20-8 overall with a 13-8-1 record in Metropolitan Division games. The Hurricanes have a +77 scoring differential, with 277 total goals scored and 200 conceded.
New York is 52-24-6 overall with a 14-8-1 record in Metropolitan Division games. The Rangers have gone 42-5-2 when scoring at least three goals.
TOP PERFORMERS: Teuvo Teravainen has 22 goals and 43 assists for the Hurricanes. Seth Jarvis has four goals and four assists over the last 10 games.
Mika Zibanejad has 30 goals and 52 assists for the Rangers. Chris Kreider has six goals and three assists over the last 10 games.