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The New York Rangers are currently the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference and had the playoffs functioned in their traditional fashion, they wouldn’t have made the cut. However, given the current outstanding circumstances, they’ve been given a second life. Now they’ll have to take on the Carolina Hurricanes – the No. 6 seed in the East – in a first-round series to see who advances. One thing to keep in mind here is that while the Hurricanes are four seeds higher than the Rangers, they’re just two points better in the standings, so that’s why the odds are so close in this series.
New York Rangers vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Odds: Rangers +112, Hurricanes -136 at FanDuel Sportsbook
We weren’t fully sure if the New York Rangers were rebuilding this season or if their young roster would be able to turn the corner and grow up this season, but it appears we’ve seen more of the latter. The Rangers were out of sorts early, going 19-18-4 in their first 41 games. However, their roster, which is the second-youngest in the NHL, flipped the switch in January. They had a 14-7-1 stretch starting January 31st including a spell where they won nine of 10. The offense has done well this season as they’re fifth in goals per game but my concerns would be at the other end. They’re giving up 3.14 goals per game, which is ninth-most in the NHL while giving up 34.0 shots per game (second-most).
The Hurricanes should be one of the teams that benefit the most from the long layoff. They were facing some big challenges on the blue line with the losses of Dougie Hamilton and Sami Vatanen. Now both are back and that gives the Hurricanes one of the better blue lines in the playoffs. This is a team that plays smart and allow just 29.3 shots per game – the second-fewest – and that’s going to help protect their goaltenders.
The other big edge for the Canes here is the playoff experience from last year. They ventured all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, so they have a lot of experience compared to this young Rangers squad. That should make a big difference.
The Hurricanes were 27-16-2 on January 11th and lost star defensive Dougie Hamilton just a few days later. Since then, they are 11-9-3, so it goes to show just how valuable he is to the team. Having him back makes a big difference in this spot.
What’s interesting, though, is that the Rangers are likely going to be very loose in this series. They are the second-youngest team in the NHL and really had no serious playoff expectations this year. The fact that they’re in the postseason – even if it’s just the qualifying round – is a win for them. Their youth could also help them here as teams have to knock off the rust and get back in action. Beyond that, they played well in this series this season, beating the Hurricanes all four times. Netminder Petr Mrazek has a 3.44 GAA and an .872 save percentage against the Rangers this season.
A lot of people will be rolling with the ‘Canes but I actually think the Rangers are a live dog here. I’m willing to take a shot with them as these youngsters could surprise.
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