Now only one day from 2020 playoff hockey, today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers thoughts on what I think is most likely to decide the Canes/Rangers series.
1) Whoever wins the forecheck
Both teams have young legs and use them to pressure the puck coming out of the defensive zone. Both teams are at their best when they can tilt the ice, force turnovers and attack quickly in transition. In addition, I think both teams can be had defensively if forced to sort things out and defend under duress. As such, I think whichever team wins the forecheck will gain a significant advantage in terms of high quality scoring chances and could ride that to a series win.
In the playoffs goaltending always has the chance to be the X factor, and goalie play could be even more significant in this series. In the regular season series, the Rangers had a decided edge in net. Neither Reimer nor Mrazek were particularly good against the Rangers. I chalk that up more to coincidence and a small sample size than anything else, but if happens in the playoffs, it could be catastrophic. The Rangers are strong in net, and that was a significant factor in the Rangers season series sweep.
3) The stars
A major story line of the regular season was the Hurricanes inability to control Artemi Panarin or Mike Zibanejad. The pair of Rangers were consistently the best players on the ice during the regular season series. Especially in the playoffs, the team whose best players play better usually wins a series. For that not to be a factor, the Hurricanes must do a better job of containing Panarin and Zibanejad and ideally also have Aho’s line rise up and match the Rangers duo.
4) Rust versus rest
The one huge wild card for these playoffs is the unprecedented situation of going from a four-month layoff straight int the playoffs. Out of eight series, I will go out on a limb and predict that at least thre of them are very one-sided simply because one team seems to get up to speed quickly and the other looks like it is in preseason form. That rest versus rust factor has the potential to decide the Canes versus Rangers series.
I really think if either team gains a consistent advantage on the forecheck that it decides the series. If not, the other factors also come into play.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of my four factors do you see as most likely to decide the Hurricanes playoff series?
2) Do you see any another factors with the potential to drive the series outcome?