How Rangers aced their 1st real test in 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It took six games into the postseason for the New York Rangers to face their first real test in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. And one thrilling come-from-behind double overtime win later, it’s safe to say the Blueshirts aced the challenge.

Now, this is not to say the Rangers have not been good, really good, so far in the playoffs. They’re 6-0 because they’ve proven to be the best team in the postseason, so far, just as they were the best team in the NHL regular season, capturing the Presidents’ Trophy while setting franchise records with 55 wins and 114 points.

But let’s be honest. The Washington Capitals posed little to no threat against the Rangers in the first round. The Rangers trailed for less than four minutes on their way to a four-game sweep. Simply, the Rangers did what they had to do in disposing of an inferior opponent.

The Blueshirts face a stiffer test here in Round 2, and they were pushed in the series opener Sunday by the Hurricanes. But a fast start by the Rangers and a sloppy one by the Hurricanes, had the Blueshirts in the driver’s seat pretty much all game.

That’s not to say the Rangers weren’t challenged, because they were. The Hurricanes played much better the final 40 minutes, though ultimately they were undone by a soft goal allowed by Frederik Andersen in the third period of a 4-3 Rangers win.

But it was in Game 2 of this series Tuesday that the Rangers really faced a massively difficult test. The Hurricanes got to their game, but the Blueshirts rallied from behind and won on Vincent Trocheck’s goal at 7:24 of the second overtime.

Related: Vincent Trocheck goes full ham with fans in epic celebration after 2-OT goal

3 key reasons why Rangers defeated Hurricanes in Game 2 of playoff series

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Game 2 featured two NHL heavyweights playing at the top of their respective games. This was far and away the most difficult game the Rangers were forced to play in the postseason because the Hurricanes were that good Tuesday. Carolina controlled large swaths of the game, had nearly 120 shot attempts and was consistently far better in ever facet of its game compared to the series opener.

But the Rangers showed they’re also able to turn up their game several notches when pushed by a formidable opponent. And not only did the Rangers withstand the Hurricanes desperation in Game 2, they matched it and came out on top to take a hugely important game en-route to a 2-0 series lead heading to Raleigh for Game 3 on Thursday.

Though there’s a myriad of reasons why the Rangers outlasted the Hurricanes in Game 2, here are three of the most important ones.

Igor Shesterkin

The Rangers goalie is as clutch, mentally strong, positionally sound and dialed in as any goalie in the world. He gives the Rangers a huge advantage in every game, and series, when he’s playing at the level he’s at right now.

Shesterkin has allowed six goals in this series — three deflected, two on open chances after defensive breakdowns and one off a scramble. Down 3-2 after two periods Tuesday, Shesterkin was lights out the rest of the way, stopping all 32 shots he faced in the third period and overtimes. That included 17 saves in the third period, with game savers on a pair of splendid shorthanded chances for Carolina in the final two minutes of regulation.

He and Andersen traded brilliant saves in each overtime, but this just had the feel that Shesterkin was not going to break first. The tougher it is out there, the higher the stakes, the better he is.

The confidence he brings to his teammates is a game-changer for the Rangers and cannot be underestimated as the challenges grow in the postseason.

Special teams

Here was the other major difference in Game 2, and in the series to this point. The Rangers owned the special-teams battle against the Hurricanes and it’s been the difference in each of the first two games in this series.

The Rangers scored twice on the power play — the tying goal by Chris Kreider at 6:07 of the third period and Trocheck’s game winner in double OT. That’s not just any two power-play goals. Those were scored at key times — to tie the game and to win it.

Yes, there were breakdowns on New York’s power play leading to a string of glorious shorthanded scoring chances for Carolina throughout the game. But in the end, the Rangers won Game 2 because their power play delivered the goods.

And for the second straight game, the Rangers completely shut down the Hurricanes power play. New York was 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, just it was in the series opener. So befuddled are the Hurricanes on the power play that they pass the puck around the perimeter and fail to shoot because the lanes are clogged by Rangers defenders. New York has been downright dominant on the PK and were again in Game 2, making it a special teams sweep for the second consecutive game.

No panic

Pushed to the limit by an elite opponent playing an imposing game, the Rangers never panicked in Game 2. Sure, there were mistakes made, turnovers, giveaways, penalties, odd-man rushes against. That’s hockey, especially when facing a team as good as the Hurricanes over 87 minutes of play.

But as is typical of this group, there was never a sign of panic with the Rangers on Tuesday. They allowed goals late in the first and second periods, trailing for the first time in this series. They faced a 3-2 deficit against a team that was outattempting, outchancing and outshooting them.

Yet the Rangers remained calm, sticking to their game, trusting in one another. For sure, that’s easier to do when Shesterkin is putting up a brick wall in front of his net. But the Rangers deserve credit for how hard they worked, how they upped their game and battle level and battled back again despite adversity.

For the 31st time in the regular season and postseason, the Rangers came back to win when trailing. It is who they are, what they do. Their confidence is born of 88 games of doing this, not on blind faith.

And at the heart is a no-panic approach that suited them well once again in Game 2.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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