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We are now twelve days away from the New York Rangers heading to Toronto and opening their qualifying series against the Carolina Hurricanes. There is certainly a lot of optimism surrounding the Blueshirts heading into this series. One of the many reasons Blueshirts fans are feeling so good is because the Blueshirts handled Carolina so well during the regular season beating the Canes in every regular season matchup.
Perhaps the biggest reason fans should feel good about the Blueshirts chances is the now recharged Kaapo Kakko. Kakko did not exactly blow everyone away during the regular season where he would see his ice time fluctuate on a nightly basis. Even though before the season got suspended due to Covid-19, Kakko seemed to be starting to find his groove and look more comfortable at the NHL level.
You could really see his confidence grow with each positive shift he would have on the ice. He not only showed the skill that had him taken second overall last year in Vancouver but he would show tremendous body control by not allowing defenders to easily ride him off the puck. It was so clear that not only early on this season was Kakko overwhelmed by the speed of the NHL, you could see his body was definitely worn down from playing so much hockey during his draft year.
From the World Juniors, World Championships, Traverse City, and then right into training camp and the regular season, Kakko had literally no time to just unwind and reset from playing so much hockey in such a short span of time.
But now with the break from March he is certainly had enough time to recharge his batteries and adjust to life not only in the NHL but North America as well. While looked at as a team that could suprise many, the Rangers are not being thought of as serious Cup contenders. If Kakko is able to find that elite goal scoring touch in the qualifier, he could help make the Blueshirts a very tough team to beat. Carolina has an extremely talented blueline that will certainly be keyed in on stopping Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider. With all the focus on the Rangers top guns it could be conceivable that Kakko can find himself in some very favorable on ice matchups.
If Kakko is able to find his touch against the Canes he can help give coach David Quinn some nice flexibility with his ability to roll his lines throughout the playoffs. Either way it should be fun to watch and see if and how Kakko can take his game to the next level during this postseason.
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