According to NHL betting lines, this series is evenly balanced, with the Rangers pegged as -115 favorites. The Pens, at -105, are marginal underdogs.
As reflected by the NHL playoff odds, there’s little to choose between the two Eastern Conference combatants. The most discernible difference is between the pipes, where the Rangers have an indisputable advantage.
That’s not meant as an indictment on Penguins’ netminder Tristan Jarry. The 27-year-old goaltender has been nothing short of sublime and is the main reason the Penguins were the fourth-most difficult team to score against in the regular season.
Jarry was amongst the top 10 in goals against average (2.42), save percentage (.919), shutouts (4) and wins (34).
If the Pens weren’t matched up against the Rangers, they’d assuredly have the advantage in goal. Cue the Rangers’ imperious No.1 netminder.
Shesterkin held the Pens to four goals in as many games, securing one shutout along the way. His lowest save percentage in the four head-to-head contests was .917, occurring in a game the Rangers still won.
He allowed just a single goal in his only defeat to the Pens, a 1-0 loss in Pittsburgh on Feb. 26.
Will Rangers Regular-Season Dominance Over Penguins Continue?
The Penguins are a team chock full of champions, prideful players who know how to overcome adversity in high-pressure scenarios.
That intangible alone will propel the Pens and lift their level, ensuring the series is hotly contested and goes either six or seven games.
Comprehensively outplayed in four head-to-head battles, the Pens will fight tooth and nail to prove they’re better than the 1-3 regular-season record against the Rangers indicates.
Like the Rangers, the Penguins are incredibly sound defensively and conceded the fourth-least goals on average (2.71). The Pens, who had the fourth-best winning percentage (81%) when scoring first, made it extremely difficult for the opposition to come back.
The Rangers had the fourth-most regulation wins, the fourth-best power-play (25.2%) and, with a .611 winning percentage, were eighth-best in one-goal games.
Only one team had a better record than the Rangers when scoring the opening goal. New York won 83% of the contests in which they scored the opener. Considering how efficient and almost unerring both teams are with the lead, scoring the first goal carries even extra impetus.
While Shesterkin will almost certainly have an instrumental part to play, the Rangers are a slightly better all-around team and shouldn’t have to rely purely on their goaltender’s brilliance.
Although in a worst-case scenario, Shesterkin provides the perfect get-out-of-jail card.
Expect the Rangers, in potentially the lowest scoring first-round series, to prevail in either six or seven games.
Penguins vs Rangers Best Bets
Series Winner: New York Rangers -115
Series Correct Score: Rangers in Six +550
How Many Games Will Go Into Overtime: 2 Games (+250)