The New York Rangers finished fourth in the Eastern Conference, only one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, while the Pittsburgh Penguins finished seventh, three points ahead of the Washington Capitals leaving the two teams separated by only seven points.
The NHL betting lines for the series indicate it should be very close.
New York and Pittsburgh met four times in the regular season, with the Rangers winning three games. The goal differential was heavily in New York’s favor as they outscored the Penguins 11-4, as the Rangers also averaged 2.2 shots per game more than Pittsburgh in those matchups.
Below are NHL betting picks and analysis for the first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.
Rangers vs. Penguins Series Odds
Series Betting: Rangers -110 | Penguins -110
Series Spread: Rangers -1.5 (+220) | Penguins +1.5 (-275)
Total Games: 4 Games (+600), 5 Games (+270), 6 Games (+200), 7 Games (+200)
Rangers vs. Penguins Analysis
The Rangers ended the season with a 3-2 win over the Capitals but had a three-game losing streak just prior.
Artemi Panarin led the team in scoring with 22 goals and 74 assists, followed by Mika Zibanejad who was second on the Rangers with 29 goals and 52 assists.
However, the offensive story of the season for New York was Chris Kreider’s career-high 52 goals., while Adam Fox finished the year fourth overall among defensemen with 74 points. In addition, New York had a not-so-secret weapon in Igor Shesterkin, the NHL’s odds on favorite to win the Vezina Trophy after leading the league with a .935 SV% and a 2.07 GAA.
Meanwhile, the Penguins fought through injuries to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Bryan Rust.
Those injuries allowed Jeff Carter to prove he still had some gas in the tank and Evan Rodrigues to emerge as a scoring threat. Despite the layoff, Crosby still tied Jake Guentzel for the team scoring lead with 84 points. However, Guentzel led the Pens with 40 goals.
Tristan Jarry had a solid season with a .919 SV5 and 2.42 GAA. Unfortunately, it looks as though Pittsburgh will have to start the series without him due to injury. Casey DeSmith played five of the Pens’ final six games, so it seems likely that he will start between the pipes.
New York was 16th in NHL scoring with 3.05 goals per game and Pittsburgh was 11th with 3.28. The Rangers were the second-best team in average goals against with 2.49 per game, while the Penguins were fifth with 2.71.
Against the puck line, Pittsburgh was 40-42 and the Rangers were 42-40.
A healthy Penguins team would be a handful for anyone in the postseason, as Pittsburgh’s core has shown they know what it takes to win a Stanley Cup several times. The problem is the Penguins haven’t been able to stay healthy and without Jarry in the net, beating the Rangers seems like an impossible task.
If Shesterkin is on his game, every team in the East could have a real problem with the Rangers. Nothing beats a hot goalie in the playoffs and Shesterkin has shown he can not only get hot but stay hot. Even though the Penguins are still very skilled, the Rangers should have the edge in this series.
Rangers vs. Penguins Predictions
The Picks: Rangers series (-110), 7 Games (+200)