The Stanley Cup Playoffs will finally begin with the New York Rangers taking on the Carolina Hurricanes in the playoff opener (12:00 P.M. ET, MSG, NBCSN).

RangersRegular Season RanksHurricanes

               The playoffs are finally here… in August – but better late than never. The Rangers had their only warm-up game on Wednesday and suffered a 2-1 defeat to the New York Islanders. Filip Chytil had the lone goal for the Rangers. Igor Shesterkin and Henrik Lundqvist each played half the game and allowed one goal each.

               “Being able to get your timing back, get your legs back under you – there’s a lot of stuff we can take away from today’s game going into the first game against the Canes,” said Chris Kreider after the warm-up game.

               Between Wednesday and Sunday, Mika Zibanejad was voted as the winner of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. Zibanejad has now won the award in consecutive seasons.

               Morgan Barron, who was a sixth-round draft pick in 2017, has signed his entry-level contract with the Blueshirts after finishing as a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey.

               But all of the extra news takes a back seat as the team must put all focus on the Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers will play the Canes in a best-of-five with the winner moving on to the next round to face one of the top four teams who will compete in a round-robin.

               “As far as the energy from the boys and the atmosphere around the room, it’s an exciting feeling, and everyone’s ready to get started,” said assistant captain Marc Staal.

               Staal left Wednesday’s game early and did not return. Head Coach David Quinn said he was out for precautionary reasons and will play in game one. But Staal’s defensive partner Tony DeAngelo, is a game-time decision according to Quinn. Due to the pandemic, it is unknown if this is injury or Covid-19 related. If DeAngelo is unavailable, Libor Hajek will draw into the lineup.

               Another big question being asked from fans around the league is who will start in goal for the Rangers: Lundqvist or Shesterkin? No goalie other than Lundqvist has started a playoff game for the Rangers since Kevin Weekes made the start in round one game two in 2006. Lundqvist has started 127 straight games.

               The Blueshirts will be confident heading into the series against the Hurricanes. The Rangers swept the season series – winning all four games and scoring at least three goals in each game. Carolina is a team that won’t go down easy and should not be underestimated by any team. The Canes are a good well-rounded team with good depth up-and-down the lineup. They also have very good special teams, leaving them with no glaring weakness. They can beat you five-on-five, they can score on the power-play, and they can kill off a crucial penalty. As many have pointed, the biggest hole in the lineup will be their goalies; more specifically Petr Mrazek. Mrazek is by no means a bad netminder and he has the ability to steal a game, but compared to the Rangers goalies, he is considered the third or fourth-best goalie between the two teams.

               Sebastian Aho led the Hurricanes in goals with 38 and points with 66. His supporting cast of Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov who each had over 60 points on Aho’s flanks. The Hurricanes will need their top line to produce to keep up with Rangers stars Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad.

               Another interesting factor is past players now on the opposing team. Brady Skjei was traded by the Rangers to the Hurricanes at the trade deadline and he will be looking to show the team who drafted him that trading him was a mistake. On the flip side of the coin, the Rangers have Phillip Di Giuseppe, Greg McKegg, and Julien Gauthier who were within the Hurricanes organization at some point in 2019. Di Giuseppe played most of his first four seasons with Carolina. McKegg played 14 games for the Canes in the playoffs last season. And finally, Gauthier was traded to the Blueshirts close to the deadline for Joey Keane. Gauthier was a first-round pick for the Hurricanes who never was given a fair shot at their roster despite playing very well in the AHL. He will have the same chip on his shoulder that Skjei has.

               Both teams will not be operating at full-strength to start the playoffs. Carolina will not have Dougie Hamilton or Brett Pesce. Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour is hopeful that Hamilton can return later in the series. In addition, Canes rookie Martin Necas appears to be a game-time decision.

               As mentioned above, DeAngelo is a game-time decision. Also, Brendan Lemieux is suspended for the first two games of the series.

               “Everyone’s looking forward to getting going and playing a hockey game,” said Quinn on Friday.

Projected Lineup



Di Giuseppe-Chytil-Kakko