Bet on Rangers having change of fortune against Penguins

Regardless of how the next two games play out, the Pittsburgh Penguins will finish the regular season having gotten the better of the New York Rangers. The Penguins lead the season series with a 5-1 record head-to-head, however, both Artemi Panarin and Igor Shesterkin were unavailable for stretches and that should be taken into account. With both players back in the fold, and Shesterkin starting at least one of the games — if not both — on Tuesday and Thursday, the Rangers are in a good position to take it to a Penguins team that has been propped up by their goaltending. Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith were fantastic in the month of March, stopping approximately 94 percent of shots they faced en route to a combined 12-3-1 record. With that being said, it’s all very unsustainable.

The Penguins are still without forward Evgeni Malkin and their underlying numbers are mediocre. The team gives up just about as many scoring chances as it generates and rarely holds any significant territorial edge. On an aggregate basis, the team has been outplayed at five-on-five. Both teams have outscored opponents by roughly 0.5 goals on a per 60-minute basis, but the Rangers grade out as the eighth-best team by expected goals according to Evolving Hockey while the Penguins rank in the middle of the pack. Both teams are coming into the game rested, but the Rangers have home ice. By my estimation, the Rangers have a 55.5 percent chance of winning the game with Shesterkin in goal which equates to odds of -125. Bet the Rangers on the money line at -115 or better, assuming Shesterkin is the starting goaltender.

Rangers
Sidney Crosby battles Anthony Bitetto.
AP

Elsewhere on the slate, the Carolina Hurricanes will look to close the gap between them and the Florida Panthers who currently hold the top spot in the division. The teams will meet on Tuesday and the opening odds at DraftKings list the Hurricanes as a -159 favorite, which is a big difference from when these teams matched up about a month ago. However, a lot has changed since then. The Panthers lost one of their most productive players, defenseman Aaron Ekblad, to a season-ending injury and the Hurricanes just got their starting goaltender, Petr Mrazek, back as well. He pitched a shutout in his return on Sunday. Mrazek will likely get the start on Tuesday, so whether or not there’s value on either team depends on who starts in goal for the Panthers.

Chris Driedger has been great. He has performed at an above-average level given the quality of shots he has faced this season and his save percentage is a full two points higher than that of teammate Sergei Bobrovsky which can translate to quite a difference. In fact, of the 47 goaltenders that have faced at least 500 unblocked-shot attempts this season, Bobrovsky ranks 26th in save percentage. Only three goaltenders have a better save percentage than Driedger. In other words, the Panthers aren’t a good bet at +132 if they’re likely going to get below-average goaltending from Bobrovsky. If Driedger gets the start, a win becomes a more probable outcome and backing the Panthers on the moneyline becomes a value bet.

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