Vincent Trocheck’s Big Night Gives New York Rangers 2-0 Series Lead | 05/07/2024

When Vincent Trocheck stuffed home a loose puck at 7:34 in the second overtime late Tuesday evening, Madison Square Garden erupted in jubilee and relief. The goal capped a tight game that saw several ferocious offensive pushes from the Carolina Hurricanes, a pair of goals from the Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere and the Hurricanes’ Jake Guentzel, and tremendous goaltending at both ends of the ice. In the end, it was Igor Sheterkin and the Rangers who stood just a little taller, remaining unbeaten in the 2024 playoffs and taking a 2-0 series lead.

After the game, Trocheck was measured in his responses to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, citing “a long way to go” in the series. The comment is emblematic of how the Rangers have approached much of the season. As a team that has spent time on and off the collective radar this season despite winning the President’s trophy, keeping an even keel and an eye on the ultimate prize has paid dividends. The Rangers are no strangers to playoff reversals of fortune, having lost in the first round of the 2023 playoffs after going up 2-0 against the New Jersey Devils. And the Carolina Hurricanes are not the Washington Capitals of the first round either. Given those factors, the reserve shown by Trocheck and the rest of the Rangers was reassuring, if a little unsatisfying.

Special teams were, once again, the difference in this one, with Trocheck’s winning goal coming on the power play, one of two power-play goals for the Rangers last night. On the flip side, the Hurricanes remain mired in a power-play slump, surely impacted by the Rangers’ high-pressure penalty kill unit, but also seemingly out of sorts on their own. Most of their offensive zone time has been spent rimming the puck around the boards, with little ability to get the puck to the dangerous areas of the ice. This level of futility is unlikely to continue for one of the NHL’s best regular-season power-play units, so it would behoove the Rangers to manage their chippiness and take fewer penalties.

With the old adage that “it’s not a series until the home team loses” occupying much of Rangers’ fans psyche after game two, the series heads to Raleigh on Thursday, where the Hurricanes have a significantly better playoff record than on the road. Having the home team’s ability to change lines last will allow coach Rod Brind’Amour to create advantageous matchups, perhaps getting the Guentzel, Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnekov line against the Lafreniere, Trocheck, Artemi Panarin line, which struggled at times with their defensive assignments against Carolina’s most dynamic scorers.

Regardless, for the Rangers, things could not have gone better so far this post-season. The only question, it seems, is the fate of Matt Rempe in the lineup. While he has played (and impacted) every post-season game for the Rangers, his ice time has been limited, and especially limited in third periods. Last night he played just over four minutes. With a healthy Filip Chytil and the speedy Jonny Brodzinski waiting in the wings, we’ll see if Peter Laviolette decides to make a change. It is hard to believe, however, that he would tinker with a winning formula. As Trocheck said post-game, however, there is indeed a long way to go. And the Carolina Hurricanes are the real deal. They are big, fast, well-coached and hungry. For the Rangers, staying focused will be the key to closing them out…that and Igor Shesterkin.

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