Rangers: 3 keys to beating the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Six

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

After a hot 3-0 start in the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes, the New York Rangers have found themselves on the losing side in Games 4 and 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Fortunately, they had two days of rest between Game 5 and Game 6 to regroup and get back on track. But for them to win this series, the Rangers need their stars to step back up, test Freddie Andersen, and tighten up defensively.

The Rangers’ missing stars need to show up

Mar 16, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) talks to center Vincent Trocheck (16) against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) talks to center Vincent Trocheck (16) against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In the first three games of the series, the Rangers stars of Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck, Artemi Panarin, and Adam Fox combined for eight goals, 15 assists, and 23 points with 43 shots on goal. With the stars producing, they were 3-0 through the first three games with a chance to sweep their second straight series. Since then, the five have combined for just one point and 20 shots on goal (Zibanejad assist in Game 4).

It should go without saying that the Rangers’ stars are key to winning in Game 6. Not only is their success a key to closing this series out, but also winning the ultimate prize of a Stanley Cup.

If the stars can’t carry their own weight on the ice and scoresheet, the Rangers will find themselves having a hard time closing the series out. Fans have shown their displeasure with this core’s inability to close out the series the past two years, but that can be put to rest if they can come out guns a-blazing in Game 6.

Keep testing Freddie Andersen

According to MSG pre and post-game host Stephen Valiquette and CSA Hockey, the Rangers only had one high-danger scoring chance in the entirety of Game 5. To put it into comparison, they had nine high-danger chances in Game 4, eight in Game 3, 11 in Game 2, and four in Game 1.

Heading into the third period of Game 5, the Rangers found themselves leading 1-0. Instead of continuing to apply pressure on Hurricanes goalie Freddie Andersen and forcing him to make saves, they sat back on the heels allowing the Hurricanes to come right back into the game.

If the Rangers find themselves up heading into the third period in Game 6, they cannot afford to play “play not to lose” hockey — especially against a team that can be as dangerous as the Carolina Hurricanes. They need to keep attacking Andersen and force him to make tough saves.

A big weakness in Andersen’s game is his rebound control which has been evident in this series. The Rangers need to shoot for rebounds and exploit his glaring weakness.

Tightening up defensively

Oct 20, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Through the first four games of the series, the New York Rangers’ defense did a good job of not allowing the Hurricanes to generate any offense from the slot. They played a tight defense, which pushed Carolina to the perimeter almost every time they got set up in the offensive zone. When they did score, most of their goals were from deflected shots from the point.

In Game 5, especially the third period, the Rangers defense played loose. Ultimately, it allowed Carolina to have their way in the offensive zone and score four unanswered goals en route to a 4-1 victory.

This thread by Nick Zararis (give him a follow), does a great job showing what went wrong from the Rangers defense on all three Carolina goals (excluding the empty netter).

The Carolina Hurricanes are an extremely physical team and will use their bodies to out-muscle their opponent and create inside leverage. The Rangers need to get back to playing a physical game. The way to beat Carolina is to match their physicality and speed which then causes them to create mistakes.

All season, the Rangers have shown their willingness to push through when faced with adversity. But how will they respond now?

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