New Jersey and New York will do battle in the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and this series has all the makings of a classic. Most sports fans would look at this as a mismatch on paper, as the Rangers are stacked with top-tier, name-brand talent, but the Devils betting odds have the Devils as a short favorite and that probably isn’t a surprise to most sports bettors. To get a sense of each team's strengths and weaknesses, let's take a closer look at their respective statistics and compare them head-to-head.
Here's a tale of the tape for the upcoming series:
The Devils aren’t a Darkhorse anymore. Long gone are the days when they were 66/1 longshot to win the Stanley Cup. They’re a contender now, and it should be obvious why. New Jersey holds an edge over New York in just about every category. However, while year-to-date stats do provide some context, how the teams have been performing lately matters, too, and the edge the Devils had on offense looks to have diminished quite a bit with the two teams scoring roughly the same number of goals per 60 minutes at even strength since the trade deadline.
The season series was tightly contested, with three out of the four games being decided by one goal (two in overtime). The Devils’ speed gave the Rangers, and goaltender Igor Shesterkin, a lot of trouble, though. New Jersey went 3-1 straight up and their edge in shot attempts and expected goals remains as wide as ever.
Can Vitek Vanecek outplay Igor Shesterkin?
Of course, the big question is: Can Vitek Vanecek outplay Igor Shesterkin? Probably not, but last season Shesterkin was pulled twice in the first-round last season against Pittsburgh, and it wasn’t like Tom Barrasso was starring him down at the other end. It was third-string goaltender Louis Domingue. Anything can happen, but chances are that the Rangers edge in goal will be a factor at points in this serious. That said, Shesterkin was good in the regular season, and it didn’t result in the Rangers dominating the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Will the Rangers playoff experience matter?
You’ve probably heard coaches and players that won championships say that they had to learn how to lose to win, and there’s probably some truth to that. I mean, it sounds good at least. But there are plenty of teams who learned hard lessons and still did not get over the hump. The Rangers overcame adversity last season, twice coming back to win series from behind, but the Devils probably aren’t star struck. This is the sort of thing that will probably show itself within the first couple of games, and I’m not afraid to update my prediction based on whatever new information we get throughout the series.
Which rental player will make the biggest impact?
Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane both have Stanley Cup rings, but Timo Meier is in the prime of his career and has outperformed both Kane and Tarasenko on a per-60-minute basis since the trade deadline. In fact, only Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin have scored more goals per 60 than Meier since March 3rd and it’s worth noting that the latter had to work his way back from an injury before joining his new team. Kane and Tarasenko were great additions, and both players can make an impact, but Meier has been one of the best goal scorers in the NHL over the past couple of seasons.
Who will win the series?
There are many ways a best-of-seven series can play out and it’s important to consider the entire range of possibilities when making series predictions. I calculate the probability of each team winning in four, five, six, or seven games and then use those predictions to price series prop markets such as the series winner, series spread, correct score, and total games. Here are my predictions:
Series Probabilities: New Jersey Devils
Series Probabilities: New York Rangers
Best Series Bets
My prediction is that New Jersey will win the series about 56 percent of the time, but as mentioned, my opinion could change if the Rangers look like they’re finally putting everything together. I have reservations about backing the Devils to win four out of seven games given how quickly the regular season can seem meaningless once the playoffs begin, but I can justify laying a small bet on the Devils at -120.
Series Bet: New Jersey Devils (-120) to def. New York Rangers (to win ½ unit)