August 1, 2020

Bold Prediction: Rangers will sweep the Hurricanes in NHL Qualifying Round

Zibanejad celebrates with teammates (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes will kick off the NHL’s Qualifying Round today at 12:00 PM Eastern time. It’s time for me to put forth my predictions on the series.

NYR vs CAR: The Forwards

The New York Rangers boast two of the best offensive players in the game in #10 Artemi Panarin and #93 Mika Zibanejad. The Breadman was tied with David Pastrnak for third in scoring with 95 points this season and is a Hart Trophy Finalist. Mika scored 75 points, but did so in only 57 games.

Stunningly, Zibanejad scored 41 times in those games and finished just 7 goals shy of Pastrnak and Alex Ovechkin for the Maurice Richard Trophy. It should also be mentioned that Pastrnak played 13 more games than Zibanejad.

Panarin and Rangers ready to go (Getty Images)

From there, the Blueshirts have a decent supporting cast with Ryan Strome and his 59 points in 70 games. Chris Kreider notched 24 goals this season and Pavel Buchnevich netted 46 points in 68 games. Of course, there could be a monster lying dormant in Kaapo Kakko waiting to emerge.

For the Carolina Hurricanes their top three of Sebastian Aho (66 pts), Tuevo Teravainen (63 pts), and Andrei Svechnikov (61 pts) are solid. The next highest scorer at forward, Martin Necas with 36 points may not even play. The drop is just too steep after their top three for me to fo with them.

EDGE: NYR

NYR vs CAR: The Defense

I like the Rangers defense, I really do. Of course, I like it better with Tony DeAngelo but he’s a game-time decision for game one. The young defender scored 53 points this season and tied for 4th in scoring for defenseman.

Jacob Trouba also looks really strong and more assertive since the start of the season and will be the guy to shut down the Canes top forwards. Mix in Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren and the Rangers have a decent group.

Tony DeAngelo and Marc Staal (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

On Carolina’s side, they will be without Dougie Hamilton for game one, and maybe more. Hamilton had 40 points in 47 games before getting hurt. He is the best defenseman in the series and him being out helps Panarin.

Another tough defender is Brett Pesce who is also out. Still, the Canes went out and traded for Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei as insurance. They have Jacob Slavin and he’s as good as it gets on their blue-line.

While I like the Rangers fully healthy with Hamilton and Pesce out, the Hurricanes system and support from their forwards is just better. The Blueshirts by design like to give up the blue line and look to turnover and transition in their own end. That usually leads to the other team getting some sustained pressure.

EDGE: CAR

NYR vs CAR: The Goalies

In a bit of gamesmanship, both coaches refuse to announce their starter until pre-game. It looks like Petr Mrazek is likely to be the man in goal for Carolina. Steve Valiquette was on a recent episode of my podcast and called him a battler. However, the MSG Analyst also pointed out that Mrazek ranked 31st in the NHL for stopping plays that go East to West below the hash marks. Not a big deal until you find out, the Rangers executed that play more than any other team in the NHL this season.

Igor Shesterkin is set to be the starter (Getty Images)

For the Rangers, whether it is Igor Shesterkin as I expect, or Henrik Lundqvist, the advantage is clear. Lundqvist’s career numbers against the Canes are dominant. As for Shesterkin, he looked incredible for the Rangers since his call up winning 10 of 12 and beating Carolina once in the mix.

Here’s why I think it’s Shesterkin to start. His ability to play the puck and act as a third defenseman helps the Rangers transition game.

EDGE: NYR

Rangers versus Hurricanes prediction

New York has the edge in firepower thanks to Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. On defense, the Hurricanes play a better overall system but without Dougie Hamilton it will be a big hit. In goal, the Rangers hold a huge edge no matter if they start Henrik Lundqvist or Igor Shesterkin.

Both teams are also starting at square one and will have issues nailing down their systems. That goes for all teams really in the playoffs. Expect sloppy play and penalties. The key will be scoring on those power plays, and I just like the Rangers offense too much.

PREDICTION: NYR in 3 games

Check out The Daily Goal Horn for all my picks

Head over to the Daily Goal Horn now to see my predictions for the East and West Qualifying Round.

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