As the final week of the NHL Regular Season has begun, all Ranger fans can think of is the upcoming first-round series. As of this writing, we still do not know who the Rangers are going to be facing and we do not know where they will finish in the division. While there is a slight chance they could finish first, it is more likely that they place second or third in the Metro division. The two most likely opponents are either the New Jersey Devils or the Carolina Hurricanes.
While the more exciting matchup would be against the Devils, the better matchup would be against the Hurricanes. We know what the Rangers can do against them in the post-season and they have had more success in the regular season this year than against the Devils. So, it should be no surprise as to why the Hurricanes are the better matchup for the Rangers.
The Rangers have the history to back up this reasoning. The Rangers beat the Hurricanes in seven games last year and beat them 3 out of 4 times this season. The Rangers this season have looked like a much better team than the Hurricanes, even before the Canes suffered key injuries to Andrei Svechnikov and Max Pacioretty.
Artemi Panarin had a four-goal game against them in February and had a total of 6 goals and 8 points in the four games against the Canes this season. Even though there were times in these games when the Rangers looked like the worst team and they would be getting outplayed in every area besides goaltending, they were still able to overcome and beat the Canes 3 out of 4 times.
The Hurricanes have key players out with injuries and have been struggling as of late as the season is winding down. Two of their most reliable goal-scorers in Svechnikov and Pacioretty are both out of the entirety of the playoffs. Pacioretty was brought in from Vegas but was injured prior to the start of the season. He came back but was re-injured and is out again. He was brought in for his goal-scoring ability and now, he won’t be able to play due to a torn Achilles tendon.
Svechnikov has been a reliable goal-scorer for the Canes in his career, be he also tore his ACL and will be back next season. With these two players out, the Canes do not have a pure goal-scorer. They still have dangerous players, but nothing that the Rangers can’t handle. The Canes have also been struggling down the stretch.
They are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and this has allowed both the Devils and Rangers to catch up and make the race for the top of the metro a battle. If they continue to struggle to end the regular season, it could cost them their top spot and could lead to a matchup against the Rangers.
The Hurricanes are also a better matchup because they play a system that the Rangers know how to beat and they have less speed than the Devils. The Rangers have had problems all season keeping up with the Devils’ speed which has cost them games. On the other side, the Rangers have handled the Hurricanes well and know how to get around the system they play. The Hurricanes love to throw any shot they can at the net and they have a very good forecheck.
The Rangers have been able to handle that system and have adapted to it in order to help them beat the Canes. If the Rangers do match up against the Hurricanes, they will know how to beat the Canes unless the Hurricanes are able to adapt.
As we head down the home stretch of the regular season, all Ranger fans should keep an eye on the final score of the Devils and Hurricanes games. If the Canes lose out and the Devils win, the Rangers’ first round will start in Raleigh. If that is the case, it would be a better matchup and would give the Rangers the best chance of advancing to the second round if they play the Hurricanes rather than the Devils.