New York Rangers must handle Hurricanes aggressive forecheck to win series

ny rangers game tonight
Feb 21, 2020; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) and center Mika Zibanejad (93) watch the shot against Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) during the third period at PNC Arena. The New York Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Rangers are certainly a resilient bunch. It has been their modus operandi all season and played a huge role in coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins.

That resiliency will be needed when it comes to dealing with Carolina Hurricanes and their relentless forecheck. The Canes are one of the best teams in the NHL at dumping the puck and retrieving it. New York will need to be on their toes supporting one another in the defensive zone to break pucks out.

“They’re a younger team [than Pittsburgh], aggressive, fast on their forecheck,” Gerard Gallant said. “Getting the puck over the blue line [is key]. If they are in [our zone] for 30 or 40 seconds getting second and third chances they’re going to be a dangerous team.”

New York Rangers need Shesterkin’s help

The Rangers do have one of the best puck handling goalies in the league in Igor Shesterkin. He can be a real key in helping move the puck along for faster zone exits.

“I don’t want Igor to handle anything differently,” Gallant said. “When he plays the puck he gets it to our d-man or he gets it out of the zone. We don’t want him making too many cute plays because they’re an aggressive forechecking team.”

The 26 year-old posted a 36-13-4 record this season to lead the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. His .935 SV% and 2.07 GAA were tops in the league. However, against the Hurricanes he struggled going 0-2-0 with a bloated GAA of 3.63 and a .883 SV%. He will need to be better.

So far in the playoffs, Shesterkin has certainly looked average with a .910 SV% and a 3.66 GAA, although he seems to be coming around. The top candidate to win the Vezina posted a .917 SV% and a 2.93 GAA winning three straight to complete the 3-1 series comeback against the Penguins.

“He’s Mr. Reliable back there,” Jacob Trouba said. “Everybody knows he’s going to show up in big games and play well and make saves he’s probably not supposed to make.”

Mika Zibanejad will be a key in this series

mika zibanejad
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers would do well to not play from behind in this series as they did against the Penguins. Once the Carolina Hurricanes get the lead it’s almost impossible to claw back.

If the Blueshirts can find a way to get the first goal, it does change the complexion of the game. The Hurricanes will be forced to be more aggressive and open themselves up.

“They’re a very aggressive team. They play north hockey and put pucks to the net,” Gallant said. “We have to counter that when they make mistakes and challenge them with odd-man rushes.”

One player that can lead an effective counter for the Rangers is Mika Zibanejad. He exploded in Games 6 and 7 to lead the team over the Penguins. In 7 games this postseason, he has 11 points with 3 goals and 4 assists coming in the final 2 games of the series.

“When Mika started to play his game, he was outstanding, and that’s what we want him to do,” Gallant said. “He’s got to think of himself as one of those best players, and that’s what he is.”

On the other side, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour knows that the their regular season success against the Rangers going 3 -1 won’t mean much now.

“Everyone’s playing lights out,” Brind’Amour said. “Everybody’s into it, and then as it goes along, it’s just different things that are hard. It’s hard to stay emotionally engaged for two months. It’s hard for the fans to stay emotionally engaged. Everything about it gets harder and harder. The team that can stay with it obviously is the team that generally comes out on top.”

New York Rangers vs Carolina Hurricanes Series Schedule

GM 1: Wednesday 5/18 @CAR7PM ET(ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
GM 2: Friday, 5/20 @CAR8PM ET(ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
GM 3: Sunday, 5/22 @NYR3:30PM ET(ESPN, Sportsnet, SN360, TVA Sports)
GM 4: Tuesday, 5/24 @NYR7PM ET(ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
GM 5: Thursday, 5/26 @CARTBDTBA
GM 6: Saturday, 5/28 @NYRTBDTBA
GM 7: Monday, 5/30 @CARTBDTBA

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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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