The New York Rangers get back home to MSG tonight, where they hope the big city can change their recent troubles on the road. The Rangers went 1-2 out west against the big 3 in California, the Kings, Sharks, and Ducks. Five of their last six games have come on the road, compiling a 2-4 record. The Rangers are 23-8-3 at home, compared to 17-16-5 on the road, so there is a big discrepancy there between on the road and playing in New York. This looks like a classic goaltending matchup, with the Canadian Roberto Luongo dueling against Swedish netminder Henrik Lundqvist. Both have been the focal point of their international teams and professional. Tonight they’ll try and beef up their respective teams playoff resumes with a win tonight. The Panthers and Rangers have enjoyed sort of the same type of success this season. There have been ups and downs for both squads. Each team has 40 wins on the season, with the Panthers entering tonight with a record of 40-23-9 and the Rangers are 40-24-8.
So, essentially, there isn’t much at all separating these teams. Even the characteristics of the rosters are quite similar, along with two well known goalies, Luongo and Lundqvist. But experience goes a long way during this time of the year, and without a doubt, the Rangers have a big edge on the Panthers in that department. The Rangers have made it to the playoffs several years in a row and playing in a Stanley Cup Finals. The Panthers have made the playoffs twice in the last twelve years, with the last appearance coming in 2012, where they lost to the New Jersey Devils in 7 games. There isn’t much of a blueprint left from that team on the current roster, but with the Rangers, a lot of the key components are still here.
The Rangers acquired Eric Staal from the Hurricanes at the deadline, pairing him with long time Ranger, his brother, Marc Staal. The Rangers ideally want a hot combo between Rick Nash and Staal for the playoffs. New York got the forward to boost the offense production. However, the defense has actually taken a step back season. Henrik has looked, well, human. They need him to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, and anything short of a championship for this team, will look like yet another failure. Both teams are coming off losses, let’s see how they respond tonight at the historic Madison Square Garden.
Florida Panthers vs. New York Rangers NHL Pick
Last season has to be fresh in the minds of the Panthers. They were in a position to make the playoffs, but a late season collapse derailed any chance of that happening. Now, they weren’t looking this good, and didn’t have 40 wins on their resume a week away from April, but this is about the same time the Panthers took a nose dive for the worst. The Panthers have gone 5-5 in their last ten games, while the Rangers are 4-6 in their last ten. Like I said, there hasn’t been much separating these two teams. But as the season approaches the end, who do you feel more comfortable with?
The Rangers have lost their last two games, allowing 4 goals each to the Kings and Sharks. They have been inconsistent as they come, losing and winning games in just about every way imaginable. The Rangers have allowed 3.20 goals per game in their last ten games, pretty much unheard of for them and Henrik Lundqvist. They allowed a whopping 34.3 shots during that stretch of games. There hasn’t been more than 5 goals scored in a Ranger game since February 29th, ten games ago.
The Panthers, again, have followed suit with the Rangers. In their last ten games they’ve given up 3.10 goals per game. Not something you would come to expect from the Panthers but lately it’s been the case. The last time there’s been less than 5 goals was on February 28th, eleven games ago. The OVER has gone 5-0-3 in their last eight games. This looks like a win on the OVER or at the very least a PUSH in this game. The Panthers and Rangers have regressed significantly on the defensive end, but I don’t know if odds makers are picking up on it. I like the Rangers too, but I don’t feel there is much value on them at -135.
PICK: OVER 5 GOALS (-120)