Sebastian Aho Line Helps Carolina Hurricanes Win Against New York Rangers

Sebastian Aho line

The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New York Rangers 4-1 in Game Three of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. The Hurricanes’ win cemented the team’s spot in this year’s playoffs. Much of Carolina’s success in this three-game win was due to Sebastian Aho and line combination of Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov. They were an integral part of quickly taking over the series and dismantling an already weak New York defence. New York became the first team to exit the qualifiers. 

Carolina Hurricanes Win Over New York Rangers

Sebastian Aho and Line

Aho and line members Teravainen and Svechnikov set the tone of the game for the majority of the series. What was expected to be Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad‘s game, Carolina easily took control from the first match going forward. 

While the Rangers led the Canes initially in Game Three, Teravainen secured his first goal of the postseason, equalizing the score. This goal followed a clearing attempt by New York, which led to a loose puck in the high slot. Teravainen went in uncontested and quickly took control of the puck. Igor Shesterkin was unable to withstand this fast-paced backhand under the crossbar.  

While Aho had a tremendous performance in Game two, scoring a goal and feeding Shesterkin the puck for all three of his successful shots, one cannot compare what he accomplished in Game Two to his success in Game Three. Forcing the puck off Jacob Trouba in the neutral zone, he went around Anthony DeAngelo to an open shot at the net. Moving to the backhand, the puck flew right past Shesterkin. 

For Svechnikov, his shining moment came in Game Two where the two-way force of he and Sebastian Aho line led to Carolina’s first postseason hat trick. Aho had not only been able to make opportunities for himself, but for his teammates, drive plays, and break up the opposition’s plays. Throughout the series, Carolina outchanced New York, but more importantly, the line of Aho, Svechnikov, and Teravainen completed those chances to take advantage of an already middling Rangers’ defence. 

Lundqvist’s Swan Song

‘The King’ watched what could be his final attempt at Stanley Cup playoff berth from the sidelines. When the Rangers started rookie netminder Igor Shesterkin, they ended the third-longest postseason run in NHL history. Henrik Lundqvist started in 129 consecutive NHL postseason matches since 2006. And while Shesterkin was unable to fend off the Canes either, this three-game loss signaled the end of an era for the Blueshirts.

Lundqvist was not the reason the Rangers lost this series. In fact, his goaltending was the only reason Game One appeared close at some points. However, he was heavily outperformed by Petr Mrazek in both Games One and Two. It was the lack of depth and discipline for New York that eventually was its downfall. 

Over the course of Game One and Game Two, Lundqvist’s performance was far inferior to where it was when he faced Carolina earlier in the season. He posted a .919 save percentage in Game One. This number dropped to a .882 save percentage in Game Two where he allowed four goals. However, compared to the performance the Hurricanes put up, those numbers could have been much worse. 

Lundqvist still has one year left on his contract that comes with an $8.5 million cap. However, this feels like the end of Lundqvist’s starting role for the Rangers. Shesterkin will have another shot at postseason glory, but for Lundqvist, most likely, this was his final postseason matchup. 

Carolina Goaltending

Coming into this series, much conversation was directed towards who the Rangers were going to start in the net. However, Carolina’s netminders were the best on the ice for all three games. Both Mrazek and James Reimer came fully prepared to take down the Rangers’ offence. 

In the regular season, Mrazek and Reimer tallied only an .852 save percentage, far below the .932 and .931 save percentages of Shesterkin and Lundqvist, respectively. The Rangers came in with the clear advantage, but Carolina’s goaltending dismantled the offensive depth the Rangers thought could power themselves through to the playoffs. 

Mrazek stopped 47 of 50 shots in Games One and Two, including two large stops on Zibanejad and Brett HowdenReimer was put in for Game Three and impressively saved a shot from Brendan Lemieux. However, he was unable to stop the puck and relied on Jaccob Slavin and Sami Vatanen to clog the net during the subsequent scramble for possession. Reimer made 37 saves on Tuesday night, including a continuous stream of loose pucks and shots two minutes before the second intermission. The Blueshirts had around four golden opportunities to take back control of the game, but in the end, they were unable to get the puck past Reimer. 

Unlike the Rangers, who will undoubtedly start Shesterkin next season, Carolina does not have an incorrect choice. Both Reimer and Mrazek proved themselves able to make impressive saves and fend off an offence thought to be unstoppable. 

Overall

What was once expected to be an extremely close series ended up being a complete wipeout by the Hurricanes. Not even changes in New York’s goaltending could not fend off an impressive Carolina offence. This series is a great disappointment to the Rangers, whose offence underperformed even without Carolina’s stars on defence. 

The Blueshirts will now look ahead to the NHL Draft slated for Oct. 9-10. The Rangers are now in the running for the first lottery pick, which will be determined on August 10. The Hurricanes will now look forward to the Stanley Cup playoffs later this month. 

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