Panic mode has arrived for the New York Rangers. The trendiest upset pick of the Qualifying Round Series is on the brink of elimination and will have to figure things out in a hurry because Game 3 on Tuesday night comes just about 28 hours since the conclusion of Game 2.
The Carolina Hurricanes opened a lot of eyes last season. They won a playoff series in their first postseason appearance in a decade and then won another. They fell apart in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins, but the ‘Canes disposed of the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals and then swept the New York Islanders with Washington’s former head coach Barry Trotz at the helm.
The Hurricanes were favored in the -140 range prior to the start of this year’s postseason, but it seemed like a lot of people were picking against them. Now they sit one game away from advancing into the first round of the playoffs and they are in a similar range to win Game 3 and put an end to the series. BetDSI Sportsbook has them at -150.
It was widely assumed that the Rangers would go with 24-year-old Igor Shesterkin in net for this series. Unfortunately, Shesterkin has been deemed unfit to play for the first two games. It hasn’t been Henrik Lundqvist’s fault that the Rangers have lost, but the thought was that the rookie who outshined the wily vet would be the great equalizer in the series.
Shesterkin posted a .932 SV% and a 2.52 GAA in his 12 games, as the Rangers went 10-2 on his watch and got themselves firmly into the playoff discussion. Henrik Lundqvist, who is now 38, followed up arguably the worst season of his career last season with another dud of a season this year. He isn’t the reason that the Rangers are down 2-0, but Shesterkin was supposed to be a game-changer and a potential X-factor.
Now, the Rangers will hope he’s ready for Game 3 after telling reporters that he would be good for Game 2. If he can go, that could potentially provide a spark for the Rangers, but they’ve just been outplayed. The Hurricanes have gotten the higher-percentage scoring chances and have limited New York’s chances all around. The Rangers are just 1-for-11 on the power play in this series and have done very little of consequence at 5-v-5.
Artemi Panarin was held to one shot in Game 2. He made it count, as he scored the team’s only goal, but the Hurricanes have really taken away his time and space in this series. He hasn’t even been able to do much on the power play, despite nearly 12 minutes of PP time.
It has been a different Russian that has grabbed the headlines in the series. Andrei Svechnikov scored the first playoff hat trick in Hurricanes history in the 4-1 win on Tuesday and he has four points in the two games. Panarin has that lone goal and a secondary assist. The 20-year-old Svechnikov had 61 points in 68 games during the regular season and looks to be the consistent scoring threat that the Hurricanes need, not only for Game 3, but as they likely advance through the playoffs.
One of the biggest questions for the Hurricanes coming into the series was their goaltending. Petr Mrazek hasn’t been tested a ton, but has made 47 stops on 50 shots. The Hurricanes have played well in front of him and kept the Rangers outside the dots and outside of the high-scoring areas. It seemed like James Reimer was going to be the guy, but Mrazek got the nod and he has not disappointed.
Unless something drastically changes between Tuesday and Wednesday, it looks like the Hurricanes will win and advance. Igor Shesterkin’s chances of getting cleared to play the day after he was deemed unfit to play seem unlikely. It seems like this may be a series of appreciation for Lundqvist, who has not been able to help his defense facilitate zone exits on dump-ins and hasn’t gotten that big save when needed.
This may be the last game in a Rangers uniform for Lundqvist, who won’t want to go out like this, but the Hurricanes are playing a well-structured even-strength game and the Rangers just don’t have answers.
Pick: Carolina Hurricanes -150