I’m anticipating an incredible series in the Metropolitan Division for the Battle of the Hudson between the #2 seed New Jersey Devils and the #3 seed New York Rangers. In the four games these teams played during the regular season, the Devils went 3-1 with two of those games going to overtime. The Devils won the first matchup 5-3 in MSG on November 28th, the Rangers answered back with a 4-3 win at home in overtime on December 12th, the Devils got a 4-3 overtime win of their own at home on January 7th, and then finished the regular season series with a 2-1 win at home on March 30th.
The New Jersey Devils have had a phenomenal season, making the biggest turnaround in a single year in NHL history as they enter the playoffs in second place in the Metro Division with a 52-22-8 record, finishing the regular season just a point back from the Hurricanes. They went into the playoffs hot, ending the regular season with six wins in their last eight games.
The Devils have been fantastic on both ends of the ice this season. Offensively they’ve been great, scoring the fourth-most goals in the NHL, an average of 3.52 goals per game on an average of 34.4 shots per game. They’ve generated the third-most expected goals (3.63 per game) and the sixth-most high-danger shots in the league. New Jersey has scored on 21.9% of their power play opportunities. They’re led in scoring by Jack Hughes, who has a franchise record of 99 points, 43 goals, and 56 assists. They improved at the deadline as well, acquiring Timo Meier from the Sharks.
New Jersey has been just as fantastic defensively. They’ve allowed an average of 2.71 goals per game, the eighth-fewest in the NHL, on an average of 28.2 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the third-fewest expected goals (2.79 per game) and the third-fewest high-danger shots. The Devils have the fourth-best penalty kill in the league, killing off 82.6% of their penalties. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek, who was acquired in the offseason from the Capitals has been very good this season with a 33-11–4 record, a 2.45 GAA, a .911 save percentage, and three shutouts.
After starting their year a bit slow start this year after their incredible run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the New York Rangers were fantastic once again this season. They come into the playoffs as the third seed in the Metro Division with a 47-22-13 record. Although they had just three wins in their last eight games of the regular season, they actually were pretty good to close out the regular season, with a 12-3-4 record in their last 19 games.
New York’s played well on both ends of the ice. They’ve scored an average of 3.33 goals per game, the twelfth-most in the NHL, on an average of 31.5 shots per game. They’ve generated the twelfth-fewest expected goals (3.09 per game) and the fourth-fewest high-danger shots in the league. The Rangers have the seventh-best power play in the NHL, scoring on 24.1% of their opportunities. Artemi Panarin (92 points, 63 assists) and Mika Zibanejad (39 goals) lead them in scoring this season. The Rags made two huge moves before the trade deadline, acquiring Patrick Kane from the Blackhawks and Vladimir Tarasenko from the Blues to bolster their offense even further with two guys that have won the Cup.
The Rangers have been very good defensively, allowing the fourth-fewest goals in the NHL, an average of 2.63 goals per game on an average of 29.3 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the twelfth-fewest expected goals (2.97 per game) and the 16th-fewest high-danger shots. New York has killed off 81.2% of their penalties. Last year’s Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin, coming off his shutout on Saturday is projected to start in goal tonight. This season he has a 37-13-8 record, a 2.48 GAA, a .916 save percentage, and three shutouts.
I am expecting this to be an awesome back-and-forth series between these teams with the series likely going six or seven games in this rivalry matchup. I’ll take the prop on this series to go over 5.5 games for 2 units. I think the winner of this series ends up going on to beat either the Canes or the Isles and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals to play the Bruins. I already have futures on both of these teams to win the Stanley Cup with a unit on the Devils at +1600 from early in the year and a unit on the Rangers at +1300 from a few days before they acquired Patty Kane. Of course one of those will lose but it guarantees solid value on a future heading into the second round, regardless of the result of this series. I give a pretty big edge offensively in this series to the Devils and expect them to beat the Rangers, with the only way I see New York winning it is if Igor Shesterkin stands on his head and dominates the playoffs. I still like the value in taking a Devils future if you don’t already have one (which of course has gone down since I got mine), but the way I would approach a Rangers future at this point is to take the much better odds of Shesterkin to win the Conn Smythe. As I said though, expecting the Devils to win the series, I will take them for a unit.
Since I expect the Devils to win this series and most teams that win Game 1 go on to win the series, I’ll take the Devils to twin at home for half a unit.
I have no idea what way I’d lean on the totals for this game, with both teams playing pretty well on both ends of the ice this year. My gut feel tells me the under, especially with the playoffs favoring defense over offense, but three of the four games in the regular season between these teams hit the under. I will stay off the total in Game 1 and evaluate it after the first few games of the series.
1u New York Rangers – Stanley Cup Champions (+1300)
1u New Jersey Devils – Stanley Cup Champions (+1600)
2u Devils/Rangers over 5.5 games (-167)
1u Devils to win series (-125)
Game 1 Bets
.5u Devils ML (-134)
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