The New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes have battled through their first two games of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. The Blueshirts defeated Carolina four times during the regular season, but Carolina clinched the first two games of this series. While everyone was expecting a high-quality offense, most expected the Artemi Panarin to be the largest threat on the ice. However, the Andrei Svechnikov hat trick cemented the young forward as a force that the Rangers cannot fend off. If Svechnikov continues playing at this level, he might lead the Canes to playoff greatness.
Andrei Svechnikov Dominates Offence
Sebastian Aho, Svechnikov, and Teuvo Teravainen have been the line to watch throughout this series, outplaying Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. In the regular season, Carolina could barely score on rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin and veteran Henrik Lundqvist. Panarin and Zibanejad set the tones of those games, dominating over the Hurricane defence. In the regular season, Carolina could not handle the Rangers’ offence and could not sink any goals. Before the qualifiers, the Rangers outscored the Canes 17-9. This came as a surprise as Carolina ranked third in Corsi For in comparison to the Rangers who ranked 28th.
However, in the past two games, Carolina has outperformed itself in the regular season, outscoring New York 7-4. While this is still below the margin of the Rangers during the regular season, it is a large improvement from where Carolina once was.
In terms of power plays, game one spent the first two periods largely on special teams. Within the first 40 minutes, Carolina earned five power plays while New York gained a stupendous seven power-play chances. The Blue shirts went 0-for-7, a far cry from converting on 33-percent of opportunities in the regular season. In comparison, the Canes were held to a 12.5 percent success rate in the regular season while facing the Rangers.
The FIRST PLAYOFF HAT TRICK in @Canes franchise history.
Andrei Svechnikov x 3 🎩🎩🎩 #LetsGoCanes
— #StanleyCup Playoffs on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) August 3, 2020
Svechnikov Hat Trick and Aho as a Two-Way Force
The Andrei Svechnikov hat trick will go down in history as the Hurricanes’ first in the post-season. For the franchise, this a stretch spanning 14 previous appearances and 143 games. This is the culmination of a season for Svechnikov where his career and talent truly blossomed. Svechnikov is only 20 years old, so this is only the beginning for him. It has still yet to be seen just how talented he really is and how unstoppable he can be on the ice.
However, it is not just Svechnikov that can be credited with that monumental hat trick. Aho consistently fed the puck to his linemate and led him down the ice. Throughout this best-of-five series, the tandem has become an integral two-way force that was overwhelmed a young Rangers defence.
While Andrei Svechnikov has dominated the scoring-side, Aho has worked the entire rink, driving plays, creating opportunities for his teammates, and breaking up plays from his opponents. For Svechnikov’s third goal that cemented the hat trick, Aho forced the puck loose off of Jacob Trouba in the neutral zone, passing the puck to what would become a moment that will go down in Carolina history.
There is currently no player on Carolina’s roster that matches up to Aho, who those three assists, one on a power play. For the first time all season, the Hurricanes have a true dominating player at the forward position. Combined with a Svechnikov, Aho’s ability to create opportunities and get possession for his team will be imperative if the Hurricanes want to take that final win to gain playoff berth. So far in this series, Carolina has outchanced the Rangers on the forecheck, but more importantly, the two-way combination of Svechnikov and Aho have allowed them to finish those chances.
Svechnikov as a Versatile Scorer
What separates Svechnikov from many other players on the Hurricanes’ roster, or in the NHL as a whole, is his emphasis on physically dominated plays. In addition to his three goals, he added six hits.
“I think you always knew, just seeing him coming into training camp last year, he’s 18 years old and he looks like he’s 24. He’s built like an ox and he can skate and shoot and does everything fast and he thinks the game well. I’m pumping his tires pretty good right now, but I got nothing. He’s special. It’s fun to watch him and it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch him over the next couple of months, here,” he said.
The young forward is 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, and his young age comes at an advantage. Unlike older players, Svechnikov can easily continue to bulk himself up in order to become even more of a physical force. He already uses his size in order to make opportunities, but if he does fill out, he truly could be unstoppable.
More than just his size, Svechnikov has proven himself to be a versatile scorer, and his hat trick was no exception. His first goal was a short-side snipe that glided just above Lundqvist’s right shoulder. His second, a one-timer just under the crossbar; the third came off Aho’s pass right into the net. Also, no one can forget his two “Michigan” lacrosse-style goals. The slapshot combined with the precision of his third shot proves that Svechnikov is not a one-trick pony.
His hat trick could just be a blip, a stupendous game, and nothing more. But there is also the chance that this game was the beginning of the Svechnikov’s true rise to greatness. One, that without Shesterkin in the goal, might be the death of any playoff ambitions for the Rangers.
Despite missing key parts of its defence, the Canes overpowered this deficit with impressive goaltending and offensive attacks. Up 2-0 in the series, Carolina could clinch the entire series with just one more win. As Shesterkin has yet to play a game, keeping pressure on the goal is a surefire way to continue dominating over the Rangers in this series. Lundqvist made tremendous saves that gave the Rangers more of a chance to win than they should have.
Continued pressure on a weak Rangers defence will be an important part of this series, with Svechnikov leading the charge.