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Sidney Crosby a difference maker

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For the primary time in five years, the Recent York Rangers will play a playoff game at Madison Square Garden. The Blueshirts are -135 favorites for Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, however the series odds — which have the Rangers at -115 and the Pens at -105 — suggest this best-of-7 is basically a coin flip.

And given the best way these two teams were playing down the stretch, the sting the Rangers have in goal, the best way the season series shook out and the indisputable fact that the Blueshirts have home-ice advantage, the series odds got here as a little bit of a surprise. Most people, especially those that don’t bet the NHL usually, would have expected the Rangers to be a shorter favorite for the series, likely within the -135 range.

That argument, that the Rangers must be a more considerable favorite, does have merit on the surface. Not only did the Rangers finish seven points ahead of the Penguins within the standings, but Recent York also went 14-6-1 after the trade deadline, while Pittsburgh went 8-9-2. 

While recent form points to the Rangers, the most important edge on this series is within the blue paint with Igor Shesterkin. That is the Russian’s NHL playoff debut, but there’s no reason to doubt that he won’t handle the pressure that comes with playing within the postseason. Shesterkin finished the season with a .935 save percentage and a +34.1 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx). No goaltender got here near matching Shesterkin’s form throughout the season and it’s hard to assume that Casey DeSmith will have the opportunity to outduel Shesterkin over seven games. 

Sidney Crosby aknowledges the gang after a Penguins game.NHLI via Getty Images

However the Penguins won’t be asking DeSmith to do this. The Penguins do project to have the sting at 5-on-5, which should mean that Shesterkin might be the busier of the 2 netminders over the course of this series. Despite wobbling down the stretch, the Penguins finished the regular season with the eighth-best expected goals rate and eighth-best high-danger scoring probability rate. And while Recent York steadily improved its 5-on-5 numbers from the start of the season, the Blueshirts still ranked twentieth within the NHL in expected goals rate after Recent 12 months’s Day and sixteenth for the reason that trade deadline. 

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Sidney Crosby’s play will go a good distance in deciding if Pittsburgh does find yourself with the higher of play at 5-on-5. Crosby is coming off one other incredible season and is considered one of the sport’s best two-way centers at this point in his profession. If his line can nullify considered one of Recent York’s top lines, the scales should tip towards Pittsburgh at even strength. 

Betting against Shesterkin isn’t fun, but there are reasons to consider that DeSmith can provide the goaltending the Penguins need if they’re going to be the higher play-driving team. DeSmith posted a .927 save percentage and +5.37 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) since Feb. 1.

Bettors could make an argument for either side of this matchup. The Rangers have loads of signals pointing to them and there are cases to be made for the Penguins. That tells us that these games are just about coin flips, so Pittsburgh getting +115 has some value.

The Bet: Penguins +115

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