Rangers know special teams have to step up again in second round against Hurricanes

Special teams, special players, special plays. 

One of the big reasons the Rangers were able to secure a four-game series sweep of Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs was because of the spectacular play of their special teams units. 

New York’s loaded top power-play, which was a juggernaut all season long, stepped up tremendously over their first four postseason games. 

After being held off the board in Game 1, the Blueshirts scored six times across 16 opportunities with the man advantage, good enough for a 36 percent clip, which ranks fifth among playoff teams. 

That comes after they ranked third in hockey during the regular season. 

"We’ve been good,” Mika Zibanejad said during the series. “You want to stay predictable to each other, but at the same time we have guys that can play in so many different positions in formation of how we play, so I would say it’s hard to scout us.”

And it wasn’t just the power play that stepped up for the Rangers, they were also dominant on the penalty kill. 

Led by All-Star netminder Igor Shesterkin, they shut down the talented Capitals power play unit, killing off 15 of the 17 penalties they took, good enough for an 88 percent clip and the fourth best in the playoffs. 

New York also scored shorthanded goals in two of the four games.

K’Andre Miller netted what proved to be the game-winning goal while down a man late in the second period of a Game 2 win at MSG and fourth-line center Barclay Goodrow added another in Game 3. 

“We like to play aggressively,” Goodrow said during the series. “We’re always on our toes and not sitting back on our heels. It seems as of late we’ve gotten a lot of chances and obviously that’s a bonus, so it’s been doing well for us.”

Special teams will have to play a big factor again in New York’s second-round matchup with the second-seeded Hurricanes. 

Carolina scored with the man advantage in four of the five games during their first-round series win over the Islanders, though, New York’s penalty kill was the worst-ranked unit in all of hockey this season. 

Headlined by trade deadline acquisition and known playoff performer Jake Guentzel, their top power play has been on fire through the end of the regular season and into the first round of the playoffs.  

Their penalty kill is also better and feistier than the Capitals, led by their All-Star goaltender Frederik Anderson, who has been an absolute workhorse since returning from injury late in the season.

The Rangers are well aware of those facts and know they'll need both special teams units to step up again if they hope to keep their Stanley Cup run going. 

“As you get deeper into the playoffs it gets more and more important,” captain Jacob Trouba said. “All of the teams at this point have good power plays and penalty kills, it’s a major part of the game.