NHL Playoffs: Florida Panthers vs. New York Rangers Series Preview

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Eastern Conference Finals is set for a duel between the two division winners, the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers. The Rangers have only dropped two games so far this playoffs to Carolina. However, it’s worth noting that they played the Capitals in round 1, a team that barely made the playoffs and played like it. Florida won two out of the three matches during the regular season, and the one that they lost, they lost in a shootout. During the 5v5, the Cats outscored the Rangers 8-4, so if they can stay out of the penalty box, they’ll have a better shot at winning the matches. During their last regular season meeting, Florida held the advantage in blocked shots and faceoffs, while the Rangers had the advantage in SOG and hits. The Panthers were also playing without their fully healthy lineup, specifically missing both Ekblad and Kulikov on defense, and the fourth line that had Lorentz, Okposo, and Stenlund hadn’t generated solid chemistry yet. While the Rangers have gotten better as the regular season wore on, the Panthers also have gotten better since the start of the playoffs. Two heavyweights squaring off for a chance at the Stanley Cup Final promises to be an exciting series.

What The Numbers Say:

Through two series, Florida’s leading point scorers are Tkachuk at 14, Barkov at 13, and Verhaeghe at 11. Tkachuk has four goals and ten assists, Barkov has five goals and eight assists, and Verhaeghe has six goals and five assists. While Florida had no players that were +/- negative coming out of round one, three players are negative coming out of round two: Rodrigues, Bennett, and OEL. We’ll see if moving Bennett down to the third line improves his +/- as he’s not taking faceoffs currently, which hurt the second line a bit during round two. Florida’s +/- leaders coming out of round two are Forsling at +8, Ekblad at +6, and then Barkov & Montour are tied for third at +4. Through 11 games, the Cats have gotten two power-play goals from Verhaeghe and Tarasenko and one power-play goal from Barkov, Montour, Reinhart, Rodrigues, and Bennett. Barkov and Montour have the short-handed goals. Reinhart still leads the team in shots with 48, Tkachuk is close behind with 44, and Verhaeghe is third with 41. Barkov still leads the team in FO% at 56.3%, winning 107 and losing 83. Lundell is second in FO% at 53.5%, winning 83 and losing 72. Stenlund rounds out the top three at 52.2% FO%, winning 59 and losing 54. With Bennett moving down to the third line and Rodrigues taking faceoffs, he’s at 58.8% FO%, winning ten and losing 7. Through 11 games, Bobrovsky has a .902 SV%, 2.37 GAA, eight wins, and three losses. Through two series as a team, they’ve taken 171 penalty minutes. 

For the Rangers through two series, their points leaders are Zibanejad & Trocheck, tied at 14, Panarin at 11, and Lafreniere & Kreider, tied at 10. Zibanejad has three goals and 11 assists, Trocheck has six goals and eight assists, Panarin has four goals and seven assists, Lafreniere has four goals and six assists, and Kreider has seven goals and three assists. Miller leads the Rangers in +/- at +4, and Zibanejad & Trouba are tied at +2. Kakko, Brodzinski, Panarin, Kreider, and Gustafsson are all either -1 or -2. Trocheck is the top power play scorer with four, Zibanejad, Kreider, and Roslovic all have two, and Panarin has one. The Rangers have gotten short-handed goals from Kreider, Goodrow, Trouba, and Miller. Trocheck leads in shots at 30, Kreider has 29, and Panarin has 28. Trocheck takes the most faceoffs for New York with a FO% of 58.3%, winning 123 and losing 88, Zibanejad is second, winning 76 and losing 74 for a FO% of 50.7%, and Wennberg is third, winning 44 and losing 51 for a FO% of 46.3%. Through 10 games, Shesterkin has a .923 SV%, 2.40 GAA, eight wins, and two losses. 

Notable Florida Players:

Barkov ended the Tampa series on a high note, and that carried over into the series with Boston. He scored two goals in Game 2 and the game-winner in Game 4. He also had five assists across the six games. Barkov was also named this year’s Frank J. Selke winner – NHL Edge data put him in the 97th percentile for time the puck was in the offensive zone and defensive zone while he was on the ice, and he was fifth among forwards in the +/-. Lundell only had two goals in the series, but they were big ones that gave the team momentum and three assists, including an assist on Forsling’s series-clinching goal. Tkachuk had a goal and four assists, and Rodrigues had a quietly good series with two goals and two assists. Reinhart had a great series with four assists and two goals. Forsling got on the score sheet with two goals and an assist, his goals were impactful though, a buzzer-beater and the series winner. This series was more about the depth scoring than just one individual’s performance, every line got a goal at some point, and with the points being decently even amongst the top players, it makes the Panthers’ offense harder to shut down because opponents can’t key in on one or two guys that get all the goal scoring done. Amongst teams that are left in the playoffs, they rank second in goals against at 2.45, second in goals scored at 3.55, last for the power play at 22%, and third in the penalty kill at 86.1%. The Rangers edge out the Panthers in the penalty kill at 89.5% and the power play at 31.4%. So if things stay at even strength, the Cats have the edge. The Florida penalty kill has been extremely aggressive and effective, only allowing 5 power-play goals over 36 power plays in the first two series. This series could come down to special teams being the difference, but the biggest deciding factor will be Florida staying disciplined and not taking many penalties. Game 1 is set for Madison Square Garden in New York at 7 pm EST/6 pm CT on Wednesday night.

In this week's episode, we have on guest HockeyStatMiner to discuss NYR's Salary cap situation, potential moves and more.How to support us and our sponsors:Columbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITRThanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at www.insidetherink.com for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Guest HockeyStatMiner
  2. Many Directions, One Goal
  3. A Heartbreaking End, Offseason Begins
  4. Game 5 Recap : Guest Joe Fortunato
  5. Game 4 Recap : Breakout Breakdown

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