Rangers vs. Devils odds, picks: NHL playoff series prediction

According to the bookmakers, no series in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is tougher to call than the latest installment of the Hudson River Rivalry between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers.

The bookies have essentially priced this contest as a coin flip — the Devils are slight -120 favorites thanks to home-ice advantage — and the sentiment around the sport matches the market.

You could spell out a logical case for either side to be worth a bet in this best-of-seven series.

But as tight as these odds suggest this series will be, the reasons for backing the Devils or Rangers are very different. 

Rangers vs. Devils series odds and pick

If you see value on the Devils, it’s likely that you put some stock into their statistical edge at 5-on-5.

The Devils finished fourth in the NHL with a +43 goal differential at 5-on-5, and only the Carolina Hurricanes boasted a higher expected goals-for rate than New Jersey did in 2022-23.

Additionally, no team had a better high-danger scoring chance rate.

The Devils were elite at pushing play in the right direction all season long, and they have plenty of star players who can finish off the chances they create.

The Rangers, on the other hand, finished the year ranked 23rd in expected goals-for percentage and 22nd in high-danger scoring chance rate. 

But this is nothing new for the Blueshirts.

They’re perfectly comfortable — in most cases — to allow their opponents to control play and bet on their star players to convert the chances they create while at the same time relying on Igor Shesterkin to be the difference in goal.

Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers and Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils
NHLI via Getty Images

The Rangers followed this pattern all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last spring, and nobody would be too surprised if they found a way to do it again. 

Of course this formula works only if the Rangers have the edge in goal, which they certainly do in this case.

Shesterkin’s numbers dropped from his Vezina Trophy performance in 2021-22, but he re-captured some terrific form down the stretch and is the A-side in his matchup against Vitek Vanecek.

That’s nothing against Vanecek, who posted a solid .910 save percentage and a +13.3 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) in 52 appearances, but there’s no doubting who is the better goaltender in this battle. 

In addition to goaltending, the Rangers also should have the special teams edge and can draw on experience, while this is the first trip to the postseason for this Devils core. 

In other words, the Devils seem to have the more quantifiable edges, while the Rangers have them beat in intangibles and around the edges.

It’s anybody’s guess which will matter more.

Betting on the NHL?

But just because it’s hard to project a winner for this best-of-seven doesn’t mean it will automatically be a tight contest that goes the distance.

In fact, one of the best ways to find value in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is to bet against the common narratives for each series.

So while most people will look at these tight odds and default to this series lasting at least six games, shrewd bettors can find value by going the other way.

Rangers vs. Devils series pick

Play the series Under 5.5 games (+155).

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