This line needs to produce goals for Rangers against Hurricanes

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers thoroughly dominated the Washington Capitals in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, that was a true No. 1 vs No 16 seed scenario, and anything short of the sweep that took place would’ve raised questions about how good are this season’s Presidents’ Trophy winners.

In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Carolina Hurricanes, who finished third overall during the season, the Blueshirts came out on top 4-3. They did so thanks to goals by Mika Zibanejad (2), Vincent Trocheck, and Artemi Panarin. However, if the Rangers’ third line can turn their effective play into goals on the scoreboard, this could be another short series for the New York.

Against the Capitals, the line of Alex Wennberg, Kaapo Kakko, and Will Cuylle generated just a one point. It was an unassisted tally scored by Kakko in Game 4 after an abysmal turnover that landed on the Finnish winger’s stick 57 seconds into the contest.

“We chatted about taking charge and attacking the game, because I thought they were playing well as a line (against Washington),” coach Peter Laviolette explained afterwards. “You could tell Washington came out with a lot of pep in their step. To get that goal was really important early in the first period.”

Through five postseason games to date, Kakko’s goal is all that line has to show for their tremendous work. Both Wennberg and Cuylle have no points entering Game 2 against the Hurricanes on Tuesday.

Related: Rangers vs Hurricanes Game 1 recap

Rangers third line needs to score in Round 2

NHL: New York Rangers at Detroit Red Wings
Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

While the line isn’t posting big offensive numbers, they did not allow a single goal in the playoffs until the Hurricanes scored late in the third period with Frederik Andersen pulled from the net for an extra attacker.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the trio posted a 63.64% CorsiFor against the Hurricanes on Sunday. An amazing stat considering that Carolina is one of the most dominant puck possession teams in recent NHL history. For the Stanley Cup Playoffs to date, the line leads the team in that category at 60%.

“We played in the O-zone a lot,” Kakko said via the NY Post during Round 1. “I feel that’s our game, that’s what we need to do. Get the chances, also, over there, like we did.”

The chemistry between the three is undeniable as they do a tremendous job controlling the play in all three zones. In particular, Wennberg, who was acquired at the trade deadline for a second-round pick in 2024, and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2025. The pivot has been excellent.

Of course, that line could be getting an offensive shot in the arm with Filip Chytil working his way back from a serious upper-body injury that limited him to just 10 games during the 2023-24 season.

If Laviolette slots Chytil back as the third-line center, Wennberg could shift to left wing, and Cuylle may slide down to the fourth line in place of Matt Rempe.

Although Chytil potted just six assists in limited action this past year, he scored a career-high 22 goals, 23 assists, and 45 points in 74 games last season. He also added one goal and four points in seven playoff games as the Rangers bowed out to the New Jersey Devils in the first round.

Ultimately, and no matter if Chytil can return or not, that line needs to start converting possession time into goals. Should they be able to do so, it will make the Rangers that harder of a team to beat as the playoffs continue.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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