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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Chris Kreider, Sergei Bobrovsky
New York Rangers v Florida Panthers / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

The Importance Of Special Teams:

Regarding special teams, the Rangers are called "Special Teams merchants" by outsiders for a reason.

Their power play has been a game-changer in the first two rounds, and it'll need to stay sharp, especially against the Panthers, the most disciplined team in the league. The Blueshirts scored five times against Carolina's league-best penalty kill, including twice in 23 seconds in the series opener. New York has Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trochcek, and Adam Fox, who've all excelled individually on the man advantage this season. They've exploited teams who've tried to play the 1-2-2 diamond with their 1-3-1 umbrella.

Meanwhile, the Panthers heavily rely on one source, with the NHL-leading Reinhart carrying the weight with an impressive 27 goals. In the playoffs, the Rangers have proven their mettle by killing 89.5% of power plays, including a remarkable 20 for 22 against the second-ranked power play in Carolina last seeded. The Panthers, in comparison, stand at 86.1%, a testament to the pressure on Reinhart, who scored 27 of his 57 goals on the power play, to deliver. Still, the Cats' special teams will challenge the Blueshirts. Regarding the power play, they might have generated fewer opportunities against Boston in Round 2, but their average over five games still ranked among the top 10 in the league. And on the penalty kill, they've been adamant to crack lately.

Their power play often capitalizes from close range, while their penalty kill effectively clears the same areas. It will be a test for the Rangers and special teams coach Dan Muse to navigate through both situations.

The Blueshirts lead all playoff teams with four shorthanded goals, while the Panthers have two. Enough said.