A marquee nationally televised matchup highlights the afternoon in the NHL. The Pittsburgh Penguins continue their road trip, with a stop at Madison Square Gardens for a meeting with the New York Rangers. The Penguins are going to be a man short today, as you may have heard, Evgeni Malkin is going to be out for the remainder of the regular season. A huge blow for this squad, who are in the midst of a playoff fight at the moment. The Pens are currently right on the cusp of making the postseason, but they will be handicapped somewhat without a focal point of their offense. There is never a good time for an injury, but this couldn’t have had occurred at a worse time for the Penguins. The Pens took care of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, but lost Malkin in the process. Pittsburgh was able to pick up valuable points, however, at what expense. The Pens can still make the playoffs without Malkin, I don’t feel like this is a total death sentence. They can still clinch a spot without his services, but it’s definitely going to be more difficult, and their ability to perform well in the playoffs should be hindered without him in the lineup, if of course, his injury lingers for that long.
The Penguins miss out on 27 goals and 31 assists, which Malkin contributed this season thus far. Pressure on Sidney Crosby is elevated without Malkin on the ice. Luckily for the Pens though, Crosby was able to snap out of it and look more like himself. This will be the Penguins fourth straight game on the road. They have gone 2-1 against the Devils, Islanders, and Blue Jackets. The Rangers look to stay ahead of the Penguins in the Metropolitan, who are currently 2nd, while the Penguins are 4th. The Rangers are up on the Pens with a 39-22-6 record, compared to 35-24-8 for Pittsburgh. New York can always be a tough team to beat on their own rink, posting a 27-7-3 record at Madison Square Gardens. It’s an interesting time when these east coast rivals meet up, we’ll see how it unfolds this afternoon in downtown New York. Note the early 12:30 start time.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. N.Y. Rangers NHL Pick
The Penguins were able to evade a pesky Blue Jacket team Friday night, edging them out by a score of 3-2. The Penguins took the 3-2 lead halfway through the 2nd period and never looked back. There was no more scoring, a hard beat to take if you had the OVER in that game. I’ve been there before. The Rangers have gotten on an okay run in their last ten games, compiling a 6-4 record. They are 5-2 over their last seven games. It appears that Henrik Lundqvist will sit this afternoon, he has been bothered by neck spasms lately. It will be up to Antti Raanta this afternoon after Henrik took a loss yesterday. He had a decent start against the Sabres in a 4-2 win his last time on the ice. Raanta comes in with a 2.46 GAA and 8-5 record on the season.
The Penguins will counter with Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been playing pretty good hockey this season, with a 2.34 GAA in 2015-16. The Penguins are 6-4 in their last ten games, but statistically, have looked impressive, scoring 3.30 goals per game and allowing 2.20 goals. The Rangers offense has been playing relatively good as well, notching 14 goals in their past four games. I feel taking the Rangers would be the biggest square bet available. You want to look at the news of Malkin out and overreact, immediately taking the Rangers due to that. However, the Pens have other options on their offense and shouldn’t completely disappear on that front. Also the Rangers are coming off a hard overtime loss against the Red Wings yesterday on the road. Now they have an early start at home.
The UNDER has been a cash cow between the Rangers and Pens, but this is with Henrik in net for the Rangers. In the last three starts for Raanta, he has allowed 9 goals. Over his last seven starts, the Rangers have allowed an average of 3 goals per game. There is some value on this game on the Penguins and OVER. I will take the OVER at 5 without the juice. I try and not get trapped into taking the opposite side immediately in a game following a trade or injury to a marquee player. In some instances, the rest of the roster comes together and give a better effort, at least in the short term.
PICK: OVER 5 GOALS (-110)