The New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes have the honor of officially beginning the NHL postseason on Saturday when they face off at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
As 24 of the 31 teams in the league pursue the Stanley Cup, they'll do so North of the Border. This particular contest is part of the qualifying round, where clubs that aren't among the top four seeds in each conference play for the right to get into the Round of 16.
So, what to expect from this opener in a best-of-five series between the sixth and 11th seeds in the East? We have you covered with abe Insights' betting preview to help inform your wagers and hopefully enjoy hockey's return in style with some winning bets.
Date: Saturday, August 1
Time: 12 p.m.
Implied Probabilities: Rangers 48%; Hurricanes 55%
Spread: NYR +1.5 (-230); CAR -1.5 (+210)
Moneyline: NYR +110; CAR -124
New York isn't revealing its goalie until shortly before the game. It'll be either past Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist or rookie stud Igor Shesterkin, owner of a 10-2 record. The Rangers must like Lundqvist's experience, but at age 38, he's not what he used to be.
Meanwhile, Carolina's situation between the pipes is far more favorable. Whether it's Petr Mrazek or James Reimer, the Hurricanes have two reliable netminders to turn to, which is such a luxury to have in the postseason.
84.0 vs. 77.4: Despite the Rangers ranking just ahead of the Canes on the power play this season, they're a mere 23rd in penalty-killing percentage. Carolina's superior total is fourth in the NHL — and the club tied for second with 10 shorthanded goals.
.932 vs. .914: Check out Shesterkin's save percentage over the course of his 12 starts, compared to Reimer's in 24. If the Rangers goalie had enough appearances to qualify and held that form — admittedly no easy task, but nevertheless — he'd lead the NHL. Reimer ranks tied 21st; Mrazek is 37th (.905).
72 vs. 61: The Canes ranked near the middle of the pack in first-period goals, while New York was second by only one to Colorado. These Rangers love to start fast — and also finish strong, evident in their 89 third-period goals during the 2019-20 campaign.
The disparity in these penalty killing units and the uncertain nature of New York's goalie depth chart should make fans from the Big Apple rather concerned.
Back in late February, Mrazek and Reimer were declared out with long-term injuries, and Shesterkin was one of the most buzzed-about young players in the game. Now the former two are healthy, while Shesterkin's job security may collapse under the weight of nostalgia.
Worth noting is Lundqvist went 3-0 against the Canes this season. That said, if the stage were too big for the 24-year-old, he probably would've shown signs of fright by now. Instead, Shesterkin has fought and taken flight, facing a barrage of shots most every night and yet still giving his side a chance to win darn near every time.
The Hurricanes have a balanced attack featuring depth and plenty of two-way players. It's more of a reckless abandon style of tactics deployed by the Broadway Bullies, who aggressively forecheck and, as David Goggins would say, try to "take souls."
MVP finalist Artemi Panarin gives New York a different sizzle than most offenses. It's a high-risk, high-reward type situation, but if Shesterkin can regain the form he had before the prolonged break, perhaps the Rangers can surprise as the 11th seed.
As the odds stand right now, unless you're a high-stakes bettor who can afford to throw around tons of money and has lots of cash flow, there's hardly any reward in taking New York to cover the puck line.
Go ahead and take the flier on Carolina's -1.5 given the generous payout and the fact that goalies can be pulled late. However, a word of caution: it may be best to see who the Rangers put in net — and how the odds shift based on that news.
It's really tight when it comes to the moneyline, so expect more action to go on the Rangers just by the nature of the slightly better payout. Finally, the 5.5 goal total seems low considering the caliber of offenses involved, which should push bets toward the Over.
Note: Odds current as of 6:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, August 1.
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