Rangers v Penguins – Game 1 NHL Playoffs Betting Preview
New York Rangers (+134) at Pittsburgh Penguins (-147) - Eastern Conference Semifinal Game 1The spread has the New York Rangers getting 1.5 goals going into Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Believe it or not, the x-factor for the Penguins is Sidney Crosby. Usually their star captain is a lock for point production, but with Crosby’s recent struggles, he has to be put in this category. Despite the fact Crosby is favored to win the Hart trophy (NHL MVP) this year, he has gone an astounding 11 straight games without a playoff goal. It's also notable that Crosby’s line gave up three short-handed goals against Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round. The all-world player will have to pick up his game if the Penguins are going to move on to the Eastern Conference finals. If you want to be positive about the Crosby situation, you could say the Penguins have still produced wins even with that usually expected lack of production. Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang all played well in the six-game series victory against the Blue Jackets. Penguins' defenseman, Letang, really picked up his game towards the end of the Columbus series, after being benched earlier in the first round. Last year Letang was nominated for the Norris Trophy (NHL defensive player of the year). Letang seems to be coming into form after a tough season in which he was recovering from a stroke. He played very well against Columbus when he was on the ice with Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik. While Crosby is focal point for the Penguins, Rick Nash holds the New York Rangers key to success. Nash did not score one goal in seven games against the Philadelphia Flyers last round. Nash has only one goal in 19 post-season games since 2012. He also has never played in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Although Nash has struggled scoring goals, he did have four assists in the seven-game, first round series against the Flyers. Another key for New York will be continued momentum of the Mats Zuccarello line. Zuccarello’s line features Derick Brassard and Benoit Poulot. They were the best line for the Rangers in the first round and scored the game winning goal in Game 7. New York is a better team than the Blue Jackets, and if they can continue their high flying energetic style, the Penguins will be in trouble. Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis will also be important in this series. They each scored six points in the series against the Flyers. One flaw for the Rangers is their power play production. While Pittsburgh features a strong power play, the Rangers were only 3-out-of-29 in the first round with the extra man advantage. They will have to improve drastically if they are going to beat Pittsburgh. As always though, NHL playoff series come down to goal-tending. Marc-Andrew Fleury is a good goalie, but he is not Hendrik Lundqvist. The Rangers were ranked fourth in defense this year in the NHL, only giving up 2.3 goals per game. That ranking was thanks to Lundqvist. In Lundqvist's four wins in the post-season so far, he has only given up five goals, but in his three loses he gave up 11 goals. This tells you how valuable Lundqvist is to his team. While Lundqvist succeeded against a high seeded Flyers team, the Penguins’ Fleury struggled against the 7th seeded Blue Jackets. He gave up big 3rd period and overtime goals. Penguins fans should be concerned how their goalie will hold in close games against the Rangers. Despite Pittsburgh’s better record and holding home ice, don’t be shocked if the Rangers win Game 1 on the road and eventually win this series. If you agree then consider taking the underdogs who are paying +135 to win the series. * Betting lines mentioned in this article are subject to change due to time sensitivity. Please visit the sports betting lines for up to date odds.
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