Artemi Panarin put forth a solid theory to explain why the Rangers seemed to generate offense differently in Game 1 of the conference final against Tampa Bay.
“The two teams definitely just have a different strategy when it comes to offense and defense,” Panarin said through a translator following the 6-2 win Wednesday over the Lightning.
That is as solid a thought as any, and surely played a role in the scoring explosion the Rangers conducted in Game 1. Breaking down the Hurricanes — a hard-forechecking team with a top-tier penalty kill — was different than countering Tampa Bay.
Much of their offense in that second-round series came on the rush, and via north-south hockey. That was not the case on Wednesday,
when the Rangers carried the puck into the offensive zone 22 times, per Corey Sznajder’s tracking, and moved it horizontally with more ease than they did in seven games against Carolina.
But Panarin’s explanation is not the whole story — it can’t be — because the Rangers broke the dam wide open in Games 6 and 7 against the Hurricanes.
Going into Game 2 against the Lightning, they’ve scored 17 times in three games. That’s more goals than they scored in the first five games against Carolina.
The return of Barclay Goodrow has let the Rangers roll four lines in a way they couldn’t when the fourth-line center was injured.
Though Goodrow’s line was the only one not to score at even strength against Tampa Bay, it had the highest expected goals percentage of any forward line for either team, per Natural Stat Trick.