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Can the Rangers flourish in the underdog role, or will the Hurricanes rain on New York's playoff chances?
|New York Rangers||+115|
The Hurricanes arguably have the NHL's best defensive core thanks to an embarrassment of riches on the back end. Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen were acquired at the deadline, Dougie Hamilton has recovered from his injury, and Brett Pesce is targeting a mid-August return. Add Jaccob Slavin, Joel Edmundson, Jake Gardiner, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Haydn Fleury to the mix, and the Canes will have to scratch a pair of defensemen that would be top-six locks on most other teams. That's a good recipe to quell a Rangers offense that ranked fifth in the NHL in goals scored this season.
Coaching is also a real strength for Carolina. Rod Brind'Amour developed a successful game plan to stifle a high-powered Washington Capitals offense in the team's first-round upset last season, and with an improved roster, you have to feel confident he can do so again versus New York.
Offensively, there's every reason to believe the Hurricanes can keep up with the Rangers. Carolina - led by dynamic youngsters Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrei Svechnikov - has both the star power and the forward depth to provide plenty of support for its loaded blue line. And while New York scored a bunch of goals this season, the team allowed a ton as well, becoming one of just nine clubs to concede more than 220 tallies.
Those who firmly believe that good goaltending leads to playoff success will be strong advocates of the Rangers in this series. New York's depth in goal is equal to Carolina's on the back end, as either Alexander Georgiev, Igor Shesterkin, or Henrik Lundqvist could get the nod between the pipes. All three inspire more confidence than the Hurricanes' Petr Mrazek or James Reimer, who combined for a miserable .836 save percentage against the Rangers this season.
New York will take solace from its 4-0 record against Carolina this season, as well as the fact that its superstar forwards feasted on the Hurricanes' shaky goaltending. Artemi Panarin, the Eastern Conference's leading scorer, had three goals and six assists in four games against Carolina this season, while Mika Zibanejad recorded four goals and three assists in three games.
Panarin is the best player in this series, and his burden is lightened by a dynamic second line of Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and Pavel Buchnevich. That offensive firepower, combined with the Rangers' significant edge in net, makes them incredibly attractive at the current price.
Carolina Hurricanes (-135)
Mrazek and Reimer have both had up-and-down seasons, but goaltending can be streaky. Mrazek came through for the Canes last postseason, and with the quality of the team in front of him, he'll have all the support he needs to catch fire and help Carolina make a deep run. The Rangers' lack of a clear starter in net could prevent any of their goalies from getting into a groove, and in order to pull off the upset against a loaded Hurricanes roster, New York's margin for error is razor-thin.
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.