It was a frustrating 0-1 night with my lone NHL pick of the night last night with the Chicago Blackhawks dropping a 5-2 decision to the Calgary Flames.
I had the Blackhawks on the puck line +1.5 at -128 odds, and it was looking fantastic late. It was a 2-2 score in the game’s final minutes, but the Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk caught an extremely fortunate bounce in scoring the go-ahead goal with under six minutes remaining and the Flames would tack no not one, but two empty-netters.
So, the 5-2 final would be extremely misleading as we should have had a winner there but the bounce went the other way.
We’ll look to get back into the win column on a busy night in the NHL and this Rangers vs. Islanders NHL Pick from the brand-new USB Arena in New York!
Rangers vs. Islanders Betting Odds
*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
|Rangers||-120||-1.5 (+200)||Over 5.5 (+106)|
|Islanders||+109||+1.5 (-240)||Under 5.5 (-117)|
Offense and Defense
The Rangers are out to an 11-4-3 start through 18 games on the season but the offense hasn’t exactly been a juggernaut.
It hasn’t been a liability, but they’ll enter this one ranked 19th with 2.78 goals per game on the season and the underlying data pretty much agrees with that result. Natural Stat Trick has the Rangers ranked 16th in high-danger chances for/60 and 23rd in expected goals for/60 at 5v5 while their 2.05 goals/60 at 5v5 is more or less in line with their 2.17 expected mark.
That being said, the output has been on the rise. The Rangers have tallied at least four goals in four of their last six and have averaged 3.67 goals per game during that time. Not coincidentally, they are winners of five of those six contests with a 2-1 loss in Toronto their lone setback over their last six.
The defense has been solid on the surface, but the underlying data is rather suspect.
The club enters this one ranked 14th with 2.83 goals against per game on the season. That’s all well and good, but they also sit 22nd in high-danger chances against/60, but also 29th in terms of expected goals against/60 at 5v5. Their 2.19 goals against/60 at 5v5 is well below their 2.54 expected mark, so this even-strength defense should regress some moving forward.
They’ve been solid in yielding that exactly 2.83 goals against per game figure over their last six, so we’ll see if and when that regression kicks in moving forward.
The main theme with this Islanders club right now is the amount of players unavailable due to COVID protocols and injuries combined.
Up front, the offense is without Brock Nelson due to injury, but also captain Anders Lee, Kiefer Bellows and Ross Johnston due to COVID issues. Lee is clearly the biggest blow, but the team’s depth is certainly being tested up and down the lineup.
Nonetheless, the club enters this one ranked all the way down at 31st with just 2.07 goals per game, a number that’s taken a serious hit of late. After being shutout by the Leafs on Sunday, the Isles have failed to score more than two goals in each of their last seven games. They’ve averaged just over one goal per game during that time while being shutout twice.
The underlying data isn’t near as bad, however, as the team sits 11th in high-danger chances for/60 and 12th in expected goals for/60 at 5v5. Their 2.05 goals/60 at 5v5 is below their 2.40 expected mark, so perhaps theres some positive regression to be had.
The defense has been uncharacteristically porous of late. Entering the season as the best overall defense since Barry Trotz took over three years ago, the Islanders sit 20th with 3.07 goals against per game on the season and the underlying data supports the subpar work. They also sit 28th in high-danger chances against/60 and 21st in expected goals against/60 at 5v5 with their 2.46 goals against/60 at 5v5 nearly identical to their 2.41 expected mark.
Over their last six games, they’ve averaged 4.50 goals against per game since shutting out the Jets on Nov. 6.
The main ingredient in the difference between the Rangers’ solid defensive work on the surface and the subpar underlying data has been goaltending, or more specifically tonight’s starter Igor Shesterkin.
Shesterkin has put his name into the early Vezina Trophy discussion thanks to a 2.33 GAA and .931 Sv% on the season across his 14 appearances (13 starts). Hockey Reference calculates his goals saved above average (GSAA) at 8.07 which ranks him fifth in the NHL so far this season.
It was probably only a matter of time until this guy rose to one of the undisputed better goaltenders in this league, and he’s certainly been the team’s MVP despite some poor underlying defending numbers.
We don’t have a confirmed netminder yet for the home side as it could be Semyon Varlamov or Ilya Sorokin going in this one tonight.
That said, we can make an educated guess as the two netminders have been alternating starts over the last seven games since Varlamov has been healthy. Sorokin stood tall in stopping 37 of 40 shots (.925 Sv%) despite the 3-0 loss to the Leafs on Sunday, meaning it should be Varlamov tonight if the pattern holds true.
That said, it’s far from guaranteed as Varlamov hasn’t been great. He’s made just three starts and four appearances, but has worked to a 3.31 GAA and .894 Sv% in that time while posting a GSAA of -2.12 in that time. This comes on the heels of a Vezina-worthy 2.04 GAA and .929 Sv% from last season while he owns a career .916 Sv%, so perhaps he needs to find a groove with improved health moving forward.
"No, thank you!"
Probably what Semyon Varlamov was thinking during this save last year. pic.twitter.com/jAlsHZdJUL
— NHL (@NHL) December 19, 2020
While Sorokin was brilliant early on, he’s scuffled some in recent games.
As noted, he was strong on Sunday, but was also pulled after allowing four goals on just 17 shots in Florida two starts back. He also allowed four goals in New Jersey in his third-to-last start, giving him an .879 Sv% over his last three appearances including Sunday’s outing.
Still, he owns a rather excellent 2.54 GAA and .925 Sv% for the season in 12 appearances with a 4.65 GSAA that sits 13th league wide, so this decision could certainly go either way for Trotz.
I’ve always believed this Rangers power play should be one of the better groups in the league and after a slow start they’ve come around a bit of late.
They sit 12th with a solid 21.2% clip on the man advantage so far, but after connecting on their lone opportunity in Buffalo their last time out, they’re now 6 for 21 (28.6%) over their last nine games. With names such as Fox, Panarin, Zibanejad and Kreider on the top unit, expect this group to keep rolling moving forward.
The penalty kill has been a different story and an Achilles heel for the team. The Rangers’ PK sits 25th in the league with a 77.4% mark, and has been especially beat up of late.
They’ve surrendered a power-play goal in four of their last five games, going just 6 for 10 in that time. Go back to their last eight and they’re just 10 for 17 (58.8%) on the kill in that time. This is obviously an area needing improvement moving forward.
Given their 31st-ranked offense, it’s no surprise to see the Islanders’ power play scuffling.
Indeed, they rank 30th in the man advantage at this point with a measly 12.2% clip and they have just one power-play goal over their last eight games, going clicking at a woeful 4.8% clip (1 for 21) in that time. They’re down some firepower with the likes of Nelson, Lee and defenseman Ryan Pulock off that top unit, but they’ll need to be much better regardless of who’s available.
The Isles have been one of the better penalty-killing teams in the league for a few seasons now, and they’ve been solid in that department again this time around.
The team sits 14th with an 81.8% mark on the kill so far this season, but have struggled a bit of late. They cooled a hot Maple Leafs power play their last time out, but are still just 14 for 18 (77.8%) over their last five games. They’ll look to build off that nice effort from Sunday in this one tonight.
- Rangers are 23-8 in their last 31 games as a favorite
- Rangers are 1-4 in their last five road games
- Under is 19-8-3 in the Rangers’ last 30 road games
- Over is 6-2 in the Rangers’ last eight overall
- Islanders are 0-6 in their last six overall
- Islanders are 27-12 in their last 39 home games
- Under is 9-4-1 in the Islanders’ last 14 overall
- Under is 4-1 in the Islanders’ last five games playing on two days rest
Head to Head
- Islanders are 20-8 in the last 28 meetings
- slanders are 10-4 in their last 14 meetings at home
- Underdog is 9-3 in the last 12 meetings
- Under is 7-1 in the last eight meetings
Rangers vs. Islanders NHL Pick
At first glance, you’ll look at the Islanders in the basement of the Metro at 5-8-2 on the season and come to the conclusion they just aren’t very good. To be honest, they haven’t been very good of late on either side of the puck.
However, let’s keep in mind they have played 13 of their 15 games on the road while waiting for the final touches to be put on their new home of USB Arena. Now, going 0-2 while being outscored 8-2 in their first two games in their new barn isn’t a great homecoming, and they’re missing plenty of their everyday lineup at the moment.
But heck, give me the home side here.
Shesterkin is an issue, but this Rangers defense is going to get worse moving forward, especially if their penalty-killing woes continue. The even-strength defense is certainly in for regression while the PK has been atrocious of late.
There’s no doubt the Islanders’ depth is being tested here, but that is reflected in the odds. As home underdogs, I’ll grab the Isles to win their first game in their new barn against a most-hated rival that they’ve owned over the last few seasons.