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NHL betting: Hurricanes have the Rangers under a storm warning

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Both the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers won a Game 7 on their home-ice over the weekend to advance to the second round of the NHL playoffs. The two young, energetic teams disposed of two playoff constants from the past 15 years in Boston and Pittsburgh. Now, one of these up-and-coming teams will punch a ticket to the conference final. Oddsmakers currently have the Hurricanes as a -200 favorite to eliminate the Rangers and move on to Round 3.

How these teams got here

The Carolina Hurricanes might not get the attention and recognition that teams like Colorado, Florida or Toronto get, but that doesn't mean they aren't one of the very best teams in this league. Carolina finished the regular season with the second best record in the East and the third best record in hockey, winning their division in the process. Carolina's game is best described as relentless pressure, highlighted by the fact they finished top-5 in expected goal rate. Offensive pressure is the name of the game for Carolina, as only the Panthers generated more expected goals at 5-on-5 during the regular season.

Thankfully for the Hurricanes, their spectacular regular season earned them home-ice advantage in the first round against the Boston Bruins. Carolina won that series in seven games, with each team winning every game on their home ice. The Bruins posed a tough challenge for the Hurricanes, as they're one of few teams in the league who can keep up with Carolina from a puck possession and shot generation standpoint. Nevertheless, Carolina did enough to get out of the first round against a good team.

On the other side, the New York Rangers were one of the more surprising teams in the league during the regular season. Many expected the Rangers to compete for a playoff spot heading into the season, but they were much more than that. The Rangers finished second in their division and seventh in the league. Igor Shesterkin was the story for the Rangers during the regular season, as the goaltender helped cover a lot of warts and will likely win the Vezina Trophy as a result. The Rangers were the worst playoff team in terms of expected goal rate entering the playoffs, but there was hope after a post trade deadline uptick in their underlying numbers.

That uptick did not carry over to the playoffs.

The Rangers won a thriller of a series against the Penguins, erasing a 3-1 series deficit and then winning Game 7 in overtime, after tying the game in the final six minutes. There were certainly breaks for the Rangers along the way. Pittsburgh was forced to start third-string goaltender Louis Domingue for five of the games. Sidney Crosby was forced to miss a game and a half due to an upper-body injury. Despite Pittsburgh dealing with key injuries, they dominated the series at 5-on-5, had a 3-1 series lead and had leads in each of Game 5, 6 and 7. Credit to the Rangers for their resilience, but playing similarly against Carolina likely won't end well.

What to watch for in the series

During the regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes ranked fourth in the league with a 55.9% high-danger chance rate. In other words, they generated a lot more good scoring chances than they allowed. In the first round of the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a 66.3% high-danger chance rate against the New York Rangers.

There's a very good chance that a majority of this series will be spent in the Rangers' defensive zone. Carolina is relentless on the forecheck and puts pressure on their opposition. They ranked second during the regular season in shot attempts, expected goals scored and high danger chances created. Defensively, the Rangers ranked bottom-half of the league in all three metrics.

Thankfully for New York, they have a potential equalizer between the pipes in Shesterkin. He led the league in goals against average, save percentage and goals saved above expectation during the regular season. Shesterkin turned aside 39 of 42 shots in Game 7, the main reason the Rangers are in Round 2.

While his performance in Game 7 was special, the Rangers will need more from Shesterkin in Round 2. He posted a .911 save percentage in the first round, which isn't terrible, but won't be enough if the Rangers want to advance. It was a very uneven series for Shesterkin. He was splendid in the triple-overtime loss in Game 1 and in the Game 7 finale, but he was pulled twice in the series and didn't always look his usual dominant self.

Shesterkin and the Rangers survived because Pittsburgh's goaltending situation was horrid. The three goalies for Pittsburgh during the series combined to post a -5.9 goals saved above expectation according to MoneyPuck.com. That likely won't be the case with Carolina.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  Teuvo Teravainen #86 of the Carolina Hurricanes shoots and scores in the second period against Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on April 26, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Carolina Hurricanes are favored over the New York Rangers in Round 2 of the NHL playoffs. (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

Antti Raanta figures to start the series for the Hurricanes, and while he's never been a true No. 1 goaltender, he's still a very good goaltender. Raanta has dealt with a bunch of injuries in his career, but when healthy, he's very capable of splitting a crease in a 1A/1B type of role as evidenced by his .919 career save percentage and .927 save percentage in round one. Coincidentally enough, Raanta spent two seasons with the Rangers from 2015-2017 where he posted a 2.25 goals against average and .921 save percentage.

Frederik Andersen still isn't ready to return for Carolina, but there seems to be speculation he could return later in the series if it's a long one. Andersen was the Hurricanes' No. 1 goaltender during the regular season, but he was injured right before the playoffs. Andersen had a spectacular regular season and was arguably the biggest threat to Shesterkin in the Vezina race.

From a more micro level, the Rangers might have more elite talent with the likes of Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Adam Fox slightly edging Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen and Jaccob Slavin. However, Carolina has much more depth up front and has a stronger defensive core from 2-6. If the elite players get slowed down, I'd have much more faith in Carolina's depth to make an impact in this series.

How to bet the series

Entering the series, Carolina is a -200 favorite which implies a 66.7%. chance of the Hurricanes advancing to the conference final. Looking at these teams, it's hard to argue against that.

These teams met four times in the regular season, and the Hurricanes won three of those games. In New York's lone win, they got a 44-save performance from their goaltender (backup Alexandar Georgiev, oddly enough) in a 2-0 win. If New York does manage to win this series, I'd expect it to look a lot like that. Carolina will likely dominate puck possession and the shot counter, as they have all season long.

Igor Shesterkin certainly has series-stealing ability as he's shown during his tremendous regular season. However, if the best path to a team winning a series is to have their goaltender be super-human, it's not a bet I'm interested in making. I do think this series will look a lot like the Rangers-Penguins series in Round 1, that saw Pittsburgh basically dominate the Rangers for long stretches. However, unlike the Penguins, the Hurricanes are relatively healthy and we can expect to see their goaltender make some big saves for their team.

The most likely result according to the oddsmakers is a Carolina series win in five or six games, Both currently pay out at +400. The series is -175 to reach at least a Game Six, but just +210 to reach a Game 7.

Carolina is currently +110 to win the series in six games or less, and I'll gobble up that plus-money with what I think is the much better team in this series. However, if you're a believer in the Rangers magic and Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers are +165 to win the series and -130 to cover the 1.5 game series spread.