The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in earnest Tuesday night when longtime rivals New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils meet at Prudential Center for Game 1 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff matchup.
It’s been 11 years since these two teams last met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs–New Jersey eliminated New York in their 2012 series in seven games, but the Rangers are 18-16-1 over their postseason history.
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Series Preview and Prediction
Two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and bitter rivals square off Tuesday night for Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.
The Rangers finished five points behind the Devils in the Metropolitan standings and lost their season series to New Jersey 3-1. They ended their 2022-2023 campaign on a 5-2-3 run and hope to end a two-game losing streak entering Tuesday.
Still, NY has goaltender Igor Shesterkin and the reigning Vezina Award winner finished with a 3rd best 37-13-8 regular season mark but was 1-3-1 against these Devils this season. NY goes as Shesterkin does–the Rangers netminder finished 5th in goals saved above expected and 9th in expected goals against.
The playoffs tend to be far more physical than regular season contests, and the Rangers can add physicality to their series edge–New York is one of the biggest teams in the league, facing a much smaller New Jersey club. The Rangers will attempt to mix it up with the younger, less experienced, and much smaller Devils, and if New York is successful, they will win this series.
New Jersey has turned things around and reached its first playoff series since 2018–the young Devils were 4th in scoring this season and finished in the top ten with nine shorthanded goals. The Devils are young, fast, and hungry with solid goaltending and, as a result, finished with the 3rd most wins during the regular season.
The Devils ended the regular season on a 7-3-0 run–the New Jersey penalty-kill unit ranked 4th in power-play goals allowed, and netminder Vitek Vanecek is largely responsible for this. Vanecek finished up with a 7th-best 33-11-4 record–the Czech national was 25th in expected goals against and 26th in goals saved above expected.
Rangers-Devils Series Best Bet: New York Rangers +100:
The Devils won the season series, and despite having home-ice advantage, the bigger, more experienced Rangers should win this series.
Shesterkin and the playoff experience give New York all the edge it needs to win this series, and I expect New York to win.
New Jersey has great offensive players and is solid all around – Vanecek has been terrific, but he’s recently been in and out of the lineup with various maladies that could affect his play. Devils backup MacKenzie Blackwood let up four goals on 11 shots, and if anything happens to Vanecek, New Jersey is in trouble.
The Rangers-Devils rivalry is real, and the rivalry tends to amount to a war on ice. New Jersey is no slouch and can hurt slower skating clubs like New York is off of the rush.
The Devils boast six players with 20+ goals but are mediocre on the power play and face one of the best goaltenders in the game. It won’t be easy, but my best bet is for the Rangers to win this series by +100. Phil’s Best Series Bet: New York Rangers +100
Game 1 Predictions
The Rangers are a +117 underdog with a six-goal total when the two bitter rivals square off in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.
Devils Under 1.5 1P +105 DraftKings
Under 1.5 1P goals is a good bet to make. NHL bettors made nearly six units this season, betting 1P Unders when New York was on the road and 13.2 units when betting 1P Devils home totals. Shesterkin and Vanecek are two of the best in the business–look for the physicality to begin from the opening face-off and a low scoring 1st period ending Under the number.
Devils Under 6 -115 Caesars
Six goals are too many here–the two teams did score this many combined goals in three of their four games this season, and they won’t score that many Tuesday.
Had a New Jersey bettor staked the Under in every Ranger game, it would be up 4.20 units–Devils Under bettors lost -2.6 when New Jersey is at home. This contest will be unlike any other the two clubs have played against each other, and Under 6 is the play.