After games three and four of the New York Rangers series against the New Jersey Devils were complete eggs laid by the Rangers on home ice, I am sure a lot of people will want to see something to distract themselves from whatever that was in game four and one would be to look ahead with a positive outlook. What would happen in the event that the Rangers were able to overcome their Hudson River rivals?
Well, they would move on to round two. Master of the obvious statements is my specialty, I’m well aware. If the New York Rangers survive the New Jersey Devils, they would play the winner of the New York Islanders series against the Carolina Hurricanes. While at the time of writing, I am not entirely convinced that the Blueshirts will find their way through the New Jersey Devils, it’s fun to imagine what round two would be like.
When we compare the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Islanders in terms of their stylistic matchup against the New York Rangers, they’re both similar. The New York Islanders play a defense-first style of hockey that smothers their offensive output. Carolina does the same thing with a shoot-first mentality that leads to them overwhelming teams. They’re the same system on different levels.
New York Islanders
For the New York Islanders, the rivalry with the city of New York would make for a great series. It’s been a long time since the New York teams clashed in a playoff series. Pure hatred on the ice and the dueling fanbases throughout the city would be a lot of fun. Not to mention, away games would be less than 20 miles away. Now due to New York traffic, that is of course an hour away, but it’s still a fun rivalry and it would be nice to see.
The New York Islanders’ offense is not at full strength. They’re missing Oliver Wahlstrom who is out for the season with a cruciate ligament injury. Otherwise, they did add Bo Horvat during this season to help to relieve the loss of their winger, but he has not had the impact on the Islanders roster that Lou Lamoriello was hoping for when the Islanders made the move to pick him up from Vancouver.
On the Blueline, this Isles team is strong. Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock make for two of the best shutdown guys in the NHL. There are other guys that provide offense like Noah Dobson but this blueline is a major strength of the Isles. They have a good system and the players on their back end allow them to dominate on the forecheck and cope with any odd-man rushes that break because of their high pressure.
In net, Ilya Sorokin is every bit the equal to the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin. The two Russians have been highly touted for a long time and we can have the debate about which one is the better goaltender, but both are phenomenal shoot-stoppers and can steal games that their team does not deserve to win. It would be a fun series to see these two backstops clash in the second round.
New York historically has matched up really well against Carolina for some reason. The Hurricanes have won 3 games at Madison Square Garden in the last 12 years. It seems that the Garden is just not somewhere that franchise has ever been able to find success and in the playoffs last year, it was the difference between a quick series and the Rangers’ ability to grind out a win in game 7 to progress.
Carolina’s offense has been eaten by the injury bug. Teuvo Teravainen, Andrei Svechnikov, Max Pacioretty, and Ondrej Kase are all out for the season. Three of those are top-six quality players and the other could play in the top six if they really wanted him to. New York’s offense is far better in that regard because the Canes could have a scary powerplay unit with the folks on their LTIR list right now.
As for the Canes’ backend, it may be the best in hockey. As deep as they come, all three pairs are threats at both ends of the ice. They press high, pinch whenever they can, and are super aggressive. Jaccob Slavin is the best defensive defenseman in hockey and Brett Pesce may not be super far behind him. Former Ranger Brady Skjei has found great success in Carolina and they added Brent Burns in the summer for a formidable offensive threat.
In goal, New York win that duel all day. Frederik Andersen and former Ranger Antti Raanta are capable netminders but they do not compare to Igor in any way. Igor is one of the most dominant goalies in hockey and to say that the Blueshirts do not have the better goalie would be a take that just stops people taking you seriously in the future. In the crease, the Rangers have a dominant advantage.
Which one is a better opponent for the Rangers?
Given their shambolic record at MSG, the injuries that have devoured that forward core, and the fact the New York Rangers knocked them out in seven last season, I do think that the Rangers would have an easier time against the division-winning Carolina Hurricanes. That sounds like utter blasphemy, but this is not the same group that was the 2nd best team in the NHL standings. They’re without major pieces.
I do think that a series against the New York Islanders would be more fun. It’s been too long since the Rangers have been able to assert themselves as the best team in New York City in the postseason, so I think it would be more fun to play the Fishermen. Neither team is going to be an enjoyable series. Both are annoying opponents and the Rangers will likely end up hating their opponents anyway.