New York Rangers Would Benefit From Devils Passing Hurricanes

A seven-game point streak for the New York Rangers has them sitting comfortably in the third spot in the Metropolitan Division. They hold a 12-point lead on the New York Islanders with one game in hand and a 14-point lead on the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom they defeated 6-0 on Saturday. The Rangers are likely cemented into that third spot, but who their first-round opponent will be is far from settled.

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The Carolina Hurricanes lead the Metropolitan Division with 98 points in 68 games, while the New Jersey Devils are hot on their tails with 97 points in 70 games. The Devils defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday night, ending a three-game skid, but the Hurricanes holding two games in hand still gives them the edge.

Despite the Rangers being unlikely to pass the two foes in front of them, they will undoubtedly have a significant say in which team they face in the first round. They play the Hurricanes twice this week, a home and home starting at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, before the two teams battle in Raleigh on Thursday.

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The following week, the Rangers will play the Devils at the Prudential Center, giving them a chance to steal pivotal points from the two teams in front of them. With the familiarity all three teams have with each other, the first round will be exciting regardless of who the Blueshirts face.

But, with Andrei Svnechnikov suffering a season-ending injury and the Rangers’ success against the Canes thus far this season and last postseason, they seem to be the more favorable first-round matchup for Gerard Gallant’s group.

Why the Rangers Stack Up Better with Carolina

The Rangers and Hurricanes have faced off twice so far in 2022-23, with the Rangers convincingly taking both meetings. The first meeting on Jan. 3 was a 5-3 Rangers win at MSG. They followed that up with a 6-2 thrashing of the Canes in Raleigh on Feb. 11. The Hurricanes have yet to stop the Rangers’ high-powered offense, which has added Patrick Kane since they last faced off.

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Regardless of the team’s record or success, confidence and style make a difference, and the Rangers stylistically match up well with the Hurricanes. The Blueshirts were heavy underdogs when they faced Carolina in the second round of the playoffs last season. Yet, they found a way to get the first road win of the series in Game 7, leading them to the Eastern Conference Final.

Igor Shesterkin was a rock in that series, as were the Rangers’ big guns, all of whom came up big throughout that tough seven-game battle. Regardless of who is between the pipes for Carolina, the Rangers have the edge in goal. They now have the advantage in offensive skill as well, while the Hurricanes’ team defense remains elite.

Special teams, statistically, are even, as the Rangers possess a better power play, while the Hurricanes have the better penalty kill. But, as we have seen this season, the Rangers have gone 4-for-6 on the power play in the two meetings, and if you remember Game 7, their first two goals of the game were scored on the man advantage.

Adam Fox New York Rangers
Adam Fox, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Rangers have figured out the Canes’ penalty kill, which bodes well for them in a seven-game series. The two sides have a level of familiarity, and the Rangers have used that to their advantage. With Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko getting more comfortable and Svechnikov going down, the matchup with the Hurricanes looks more favorable.

Rangers vs. Devils Would Be Thrilling

If the Hurricanes hold onto the top spot in the Metro, the Devils and Rangers will battle in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Reviving this playoff rivalry will undoubtedly be great for the NHL, with the Hudson River rivals giving us some classic playoff series whenever they have met in the past.

New Jersey is a young, fast, and talented squad that has been tearing it up offensively all season. Jack Hughes, the former first overall selection in 2019, has blossomed into one of the best young players in the game. Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier continue to get better, and they added Timo Meier at the trade deadline, making their offense even more formidable.

The Rangers now feature as star-studded an offensive group as one could have. Although Tarasenko and Kane may not be at the elite level they once were, players like Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider are all dangerous. At the same time, the depth and supporting cast are also lethal.

Artemi Panarin New York Rangers Ondrej Palat New Jersey Devils
Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers tries to get by Ondrej Palat of the New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

These two teams have played each other three times this season, with the Devils taking two out of three. Two of the games were decided in overtime, and the team that lost held a multi-goal lead in all three games. Both squads have a never say die attitude, which will surely make a seven-game series supremely entertaining.

Both fan bases do not like each other, with each invading the other’s building. Simply put: this series would be a lot of fun. But for the Rangers, there is more uncertainty in playing the Devils than the Hurricanes. That is not to say the Hurricanes cannot beat the Rangers; they very well can, but they know what to expect from each other.

The Devils are young and fresh on the scene, like the Rangers one year ago. Those teams are almost playing with house money and are frightening to play against. The two sides will play on March 30, the first meeting between the post-deadline rosters, which should be a sneak peek at the possible playoff thriller we could get.

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After a 7-0 thrashing of the Nashville Predators, the Rangers are now 6-0-1 in their last seven games (from ‘Rangers put on offensive show in dominant win over Penguins,’ by NY Post – 03/18/23). They have tallied 15 unanswered goals, and look as though the deadline moves are meshing beautifully with the established players. With 92 points and two games upcoming against the Hurricanes, there is an outside chance the Rangers could still change their playoff seeding.

But with the likelihood of them finishing in third ever increasing, the Rangers could help propel the Devils by sweeping the season series against the Hurricanes.