Keys To the East: How the Rangers Can Tame The Panthers For Eastern Crown

It's time to hunt again for the New York Rangers. They've won eight playoff games and defied the odds, "upsetting" the Vegas bettors by defeating the Carolina Hurricanes. However, they still need eight more to reach their goal of winning a Stanley Cup. Yet, to reach their first final in a decade, they must beat the East's reigning beasts, the Florida Panthers. This series should be a classic, so let's consider what to expect. 
Florida Panthers v New York Rangers
Florida Panthers v New York Rangers / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo Kakko
Philadelphia Flyers v New York Rangers / Dustin Satloff/GettyImages

The Bottom Six:

On the bottom six, the Rangers have Filip Chytil, Alex Wennberg, and Kaapo Kakko, while Florida features Sam Bennett between Eetu Luostarinen and Evan Rodrigues.

Adding Chytil makes the Rangers' lineup look much more profound. The third line, which often includes Kakko, Wennberg, and rookie Will Cuylle, has been strong regarding underlying numbers. The trio leads all remaining playoff lines with a 69.8% expected goals for percentage (xGF) among lines that have played at least 60 minutes together. However, finishing has been an issue, as they've only scored two goals in 66.7 minutes.

The Panthers' fourth line is built to be a pain to play against, with Nick Cousins and Ryan Lomberg pushing their buttons. Centering them is Kevin Stenlund, who's been solid in the faceoff circle, winning 52.2% of his draws this postseason. They won't score but will wear you down defensively. The Rangers will either have Matt Rempe's tenacity, Jonny Brodzinki's speed, or Will Cuylle's smarts. The fact we're even questioning this proves how deep they are. Regardless, the grizzled veteran Barclay Goodrow will center the trio. He's been excellent in these playoffs defensively, especially on the penalty kill, and was clutch with the empty net goal, sealing the series against Carolina.

So while it may seem the Rangers have the forward depth, the blueline is a different story.