5 matchups we’re looking forward to most in the NHL’s 24-team playoff

Edmonton Oilers. Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Edmonton Oilers. Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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New York Rangers. Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
New York Rangers. Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

NHL playoffs: Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers

The Carolina Hurricanes were one of the only two teams to vote against this new 24-team playoff format, and they’re not without reason. Instead of making they playoffs like they were seemingly going to, instead they have to get through a potential nightmare matchup against the New York Rangers.

The winner of this series will advance to face the third seed in the Eastern Conference, currently the Washington Capitals. The Rangers won all four meetings against the Hurricanes in the regular season.

After an entire decade of missing the playoffs, Carolina is fresh off a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and starting to emerge as a Stanley Cup contender for years to come. However this season wasn’t quite the day of reckoning that they envisioned as they find themselves in the same spot that they did last season.

The Hurricanes boast of one of the well balanced rosters in the NHL. Sebastian Aho is proving himself to the be face of the Hurricanes franchise with ever evolving game, which is now starting to include elite goal scoring. With the likes Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen rounding their offensive core, as well as newly acquired Vincent Trocheck, the Hurricanes are built for a deep playoff run.

The defense for Carolina was advertised as their strength, but ever since losing Dougie Hamilton to injury it just hasn’t been the same. While Jaccob Slavin has emerged as one of the best defensive players in hockey, the defensive stats still aren’t very flattering. 20th in the league in expected goals against, and a bottom five team in wins above replacement. Even with Hamilton potentially coming back, there is work to be done on the backend.

The Rangers have spent the last two seasons rebuilding after tearing the roster down for future assets, but took a significant step this offseason towards ending the rebuild and moving towards contention. This years Rangers team became a must watch just about every night, and started rattling off impressive wins. By the season pause, the Rangers were tied for sixth in the entire league in regulation wins, tied with Washington and Philadelphia whom sit atop the Metropolitan division.

Leading the charge on offense is newly signed Artemi Panarin with an MVP caliber season. Not far behind was Mika Zibanejad with a career year, and newly extended Chris Kreider. Combined with a new young core, the Rangers scored the fifth most goals in the league. Their power play also sat among the best in the league.

However the Rangers are a catastrophically bad defensive team, even worse at even strength and penalty kill according to EvolvingHockey. They only way stayed afloat was from the leagues best goaltending trio of Alex Georgiev, Igor Shestorkin, and Henrik Lundqvist. Speaking of, all the sudden the Rangers now have a chance to go on a playoff run and in what could possibly be Lundqvist’s last season in New York.

Why the new playoff format benefits the Rangers. light. More

There is no pressure on this Rangers team, as they win to make it in and either get valuable playoff experience or lose and get a better draft position to keep building their young core. Funny enough, the Rangers also own the Hurricanes first round pick, and if some scenarios work out perfectly, the Rangers can win this series and still get a top 15 draft pick.

The Hurricanes for the first time in a long time have real expectations as they are a much more well rounded team, built to thrive in the playoffs. This Rangers team has proven to be a foil for the Hurricanes, and to suddenly be matched with them might be the worst possible scenario for the Hurricanes in a season that held a lot of promise. You can’t blame them for voting no to the format, but it’s still time to put up or shut up.

With the trajectory these two teams are on, it would not come as a surprise if this was the first of multiple playoff series meeting between these two, and the start of a new rivalry in the Metropolitan division.