What a crazy league the NHL has been so far.
We knew the NHL is a league chock-full of parity as that’s largely been the case for several years now. However, while I haven’t crunched all the numbers, I’d venture a guess and say we are seeing a record number of one-goal results here in 2021.
For instance, the Lightning’s 6-1 blowout of the Predators last night was the only game of the seven on the schedule that was not a one-goal affair. Two nights back, only one of six games was won by two or more with two of the six finishing as a one-goal game while three of five games on Sunday were one-goal affairs.
In other words, the puckline is a dangerous place to live these days.
While we had an even start to the season, February has been a better month in a small sample as I have been more careful in hand-picking my targeted games. It’s a new ball game this season and more attention to details seems to be required this time around.
That said, we’re coming off a big +146 moneyline win with the Coyotes over the Blues back on Saturday, so let’s see what’s in store as we look at the Bruins vs. Rangers in an East Division clash from Broadway!
- Season Record: 11-16
- Units: -5.63
Bruins vs. Rangers Betting Odds
- Bruins (-161)
- Rangers (+145)
- Bruins -1.5 (+158)
- Rangers +1.5 (-178)
- Over 5.5 (-113)
- Under 5.5 (+102)
Bruins vs. Rangers NHL Pick Breakdown
The Bruins have been one of the few teams in the league that have offered up a top-10 defense and offense in recent seasons, and that’s been close to the case again this time around.
The Bruins currently sit 14th while averaging 3.09 goals per game on the season, and while it’s not a top-10 offense on the whole, their power play has once again been dynamite to the tune of a 33.3% clip that sits sixth league wide.
While their advanced rankings don’t quite match up with their overall numbers, the Bruins have pretty much scored as much as expected at 5v5 this season.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Bruins rank 21st in scoring chances for/60, 27th in high-danger chances for/60 and 20th in expected goals/60 at 5v5 action this season. That said, their 1.99 actual goals/60 at 5v5 this season sits slightly under their 2.11 expected mark, so again, they’ve more or less scored as much as expected while skating at 5v5 this season, although their power play has certainly boosted their overall results significantly.
From a personnel standpoint, it looks like the Bruins should get back winger Jake DeBrusk after a seven-game absence and power play defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was well after he missed the last six games.
After being cooled off offensively despite stunning the Flyers with a quick pair of third-period goals in a 2-1 win, we’ll see if this Bruins offense can bounce back in this one tonight.
Their offense has been fairly average overall this season, yet the Bruins lead the East Division pack with an 8-1-2 record thanks mostly to their elite work on defense once again.
Despite choosing to let both Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara walk on the open market and therefore thrust some inexperience into their back end, the Bruins are currently tied for second with just 2.18 goals against per game on the season and have killed penalties at a second-ranked 87.8% clip.
After allowing at least three goals in three straight games, the B’s held a deep Flyers offensive group to just one goal back on Friday, winning their third in a row in the process.
As usual, their defensive metrics stack up quite nicely as well.
At 5v5, the Bruins rank fifth in scoring chances against/60, third in high-danger chances against/60 and first in the league in expected goals against/60. What’s scary is that their 1.99 goals against/60 on the season is actually below their 1.61 expected mark. While they were the best defense in the NHL in allowing just 2.39 goals per game last season, you would have to believe there’s at least minor regression coming given their 2.18 mark so far this season.
But, we’re mostly splittin’ hairs with all that. The bottom line is this Bruins defense has been about as stout as it gets this season, showing zero ill effects of some key offseason departures.
The Bruins have actually put forth such strong defensive results despite an uneven start to the season from mainstay Tuukka Rask.
Only on the Bruins can a goaltender put forth a .898 Sv% and be 5-1-1 with a 2.36 GAA on the season across seven starts. That’s what allowing a league-best 23.5 shots per game will do for you, but of course that’s an unsustainable number in itself.
Nonetheless, with Rask sporting a career .922 Sv% and coming off a .929 mark from last season, you would expect Rask to start putting forth better individual numbers.
That said, Rask isn’t confirmed as tonight’s starter, so perhaps Jaroslav Halak gets the nod in this one.
For his part, Halak sports an eye-popping 1.72 GAA and .923 Sv% on the season across four starts, going a cool 3-0-1 in the process. After Rask missed some time due to a lower-body ailment, Halak has made just one start since January 28, allowing three goals in a 5-3 win over Washington in that outing.
All told, it’s a comfy job once again playing behind this reliable Bruins defense.
The Rangers surged up the Eastern Conference standings thanks in large part to their fifth-ranked offense from last season, however goals haven’t been quite as easy to come by this time around.
The Rangers sport the league’s 24th-ranked offense while averaging 2.64 goals per game on the campaign while their power play has had its struggles to be sure, sitting 25th with a 13.6% mark.
The advanced metrics aren’t much kinder. The Rangers rank 22nd in scoring chances for/60, although 15th in both high-danger chances for/60 and expected goals for/60 at 5v5 this season. Their 2.03 goals/60 at 5v5 is pretty much in line with their 2.19 expected mark, so it’s not a forgone conclusion that their even-strength offense will improve moving forward.
From such a talented group, however, the slow start is hard to wrap your head around.
Mika Zibanejad has just one goal and a 2.o9% shooting rate that is going to skyrocket moving forward, but 2020 No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere has struggled mightily to begin his NHL career.
Artemi Panarin leads the team with 15 points as he’s once again producing at MVP levels, but after him the next closest Ranger is Pavel Buchnevich with eight points followed by defenseman Adam Fox with seven. If the Rangers are to right the offensive ship, they’ll need far more from the likes of Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Lafreniere, Ryan Strome, Kaapo Kakko and others.
This Rangers blueline has already put forth far superior work on the back end after largely struggling as a group last season, especially in the analytics department.
Overall, the Rangers have actually snuck into the top 10 with just 2.64 goals against per game on the season while their penalty kill has been solid at 82.1%, good for 11th league wide.
After ranking among the worst teams in terms of scoring chances allowed last season, the Rangers sit 16th in scoring chances against/60, 22nd in high-danger chances against/60 and 19th in expected goals against/60. While those numbers may not stand out, their 2.51 actual goals against/60 at 5v5 this season is notably above their 2.21 expected mark, so this group should improve moving forward if their penalty kill can hold up.
The Rangers are missing veterans Jack Johnson and Brendan Smith on the blueline at the moment, but that could be a blessing in disguise, at least when it comes to Johnson as the Rangers are getting just 38.78% of the scoring chances when he’s on the ice this season.
Youngster Libor Hajek and journeyman Anthony Bittetto represent the club’s bottom pair in their stead, but with just five goals against over their last three games, the Rangers have been playing some stellar defense themselves of late.
We can put an asterisk beside the five goals allowed over the last three games for this one as all three of those came in starts made by Igor Shesterkin.
Tonight, it will be fellow young Russian Alexandar Georgiev getting his first start since taking a 5-4 overtime loss to the Penguins on January 30, and it’s been a tough for him of late.
Georgiev enters this one sporting a 3.27 GAA and .886 Sv% in four outings, going just 1-2-1 in that time. He began his season with a shutout win over the Islanders in the club’s second game of the campaign, but has since dropped three in a row while allowing 12 goals on 82 shots, good for an ugly .854 Sv%.
If he can get some goal support in this one, it’s not the worst matchup in the world. Boston’s offense has only been slightly above league average this season, and Georgiev owned a career .913 Sv% prior to this season. Not an eye-popping figure, but certainly not a poor one for a now 24-year-old goaltender with just 81 career NHL games under his belt.
He’s had time off to regroup, and he’ll look for a bounce back effort as a significant underdog this evening.
Bruins vs. Rangers NHL Pick
I’ll admit that I believed the Bruins’ defense would take some form of a hit without two of its top six defenders from last season being replaced by inexperience and youth.
Bruce Cassidy’s defensive structure remains elite, however, and the Bruins’ blueline of the future has certainly bought in and played well.
That said, man is this a team that plays a lot of close games. They did so last season, and so far this season they’ve been to extra time in six of their 11 games with seven of their 11 games in total being decided by just one goal. Again, that’s life in the NHL this season and I’m not sure we should expect much to change there moving forward.
They scored two goals in 27 seconds in the third period to snatch victory for the arms of defeat in Philly their last time out, two nights after beating them in overtime. Full marks for the effort, but the difference between winning those two games and losing them is razor thin.
So, give me the underdog here. Zibanejad and co. are due to break out in a big way up front, and that power play isn’t going to simmer at 13% forever, nor is the Bruins 33.3% mark.
The Rangers have to be playing desperate hockey already as they’re quickly falling out of the east race and Georgiev has plenty of motivation to bounce back in this one.
In a league packed with close games, let’s grab the home underdog here at a valuable price.