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Penguins, Rangers Commence Round 2

The Rangers and Penguins continue their bids for the Stanley Cup with Friday's Game 1.

The Rangers and Penguins continue their bids for the Stanley Cup with Friday’s Game 1.

With each surviving a scare in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers will take to the ice for Game 1 of their second round series on Friday night.

Opening face-off at Consol Energy Center is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET.

After comfortably winning the Metropolitan Division, Pittsburgh suffered an unexpected four-game split to start its series with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team knuckled down though to record a pair of consecutive wins to close out the round in six games.

Metropolitan Division runner up New York meanwhile was ridden all the way by a pesky Philadelphia Flyers side that just wouldn’t go away. The two side traded wins throughout the series, with the Rangers eventually taking the series on Wednesday thanks to a 2-1 victory in Game 7.

Now the division’s top two will square-off for a place in the Eastern Conference finals.

Parity has been the theme during the early going this postseason as six of the eight first round series went to at least six games, with three requiring a decisive Game 7. Meanwhile, four so-called underdogs have advanced ahead of their preferred rivals, and only the Penguins-Rangers clash represents a matchup between two highest seeds. Parity has truly ruled the roost so far and it’s likely to be the theme again during this second round series.

NYR_PIT_Regular_SeasonThe Penguins and Rangers split four regular season games during the regular season, each winning once at home and once on the road. Both won on the road via a shootout, demonstrating just how well-matched these two teams are.

But while this season’s head-to-head matchups may have been even, history tells us that the postseason is anything but.

Since Pittsburgh entered the league as an expansion team in 1967, the two sides have met in four postseason series (1989, 1992, 1996, 2008). The Penguins have taken all four series, twice marching all the way to the Stanley Cup finals afterwards.

NYR_PIT_PostseasonThe series haven’t been all that close either. Pittsburgh owns a 16-4 record against New York in postseason games. The closest the Rangers have gotten was a 4-2 series defeat back in 1992, while Pittsburgh’s best performance was a 4-0 sweep in 1989.

Head coach Alain Vigneault and his team will be hoping the hockey gods have something different in mind this year, and will be looking to put the halters on Pittsburgh’s dominance.

The Penguins meanwhile will enter the series with confidence. Sidney Crosby was named a finalist for the Hart Trophy this week and even though the talismanic center failed to find the net in the first round, the Penguins’ offense still managed to tally 21 goals over the six games with the Blue Jackets. Scoring hasn’t been a problem against the Rangers this year either; the Penguins put 13 past the Rangers in four games.

However, defense might pose a problem. The Penguins conceded 14 games against the Rangers during the regular season before allowing 18 goals – including two in crucial overtime periods, – against the Blue Jackets in Round 1.

Marc-Andre Fleury (4-2, .908 SV%) however has been formidable for much of his time in the crease and with a little more focus, and a little more help from his defensemen, could bring back the defensive curtain the team played behind for much of the season.

At the other end of the ice, Fleury’s counterpart Henrik Lundqvist (4-3, .919 SV%) has posted solid save percentage numbers, and crucially stopped 31-of-32 shots in Wednesday’s series finale. He’ll be looking to put on a better performance than he did against the Penguins during the regular season.

Whichever you spin it though, this series looks poised to be another close affair.

TopBet has Pittsburgh (-160) favored over New York (+140) to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Meanwhile, Bovada has the Penguins at 5/2 to win the Eastern Conference and 6/1 to win the Stanley Cup outright. The Rangers are 5/1 to win the East and 10/1 to lift Lord Stanley’s cup.


New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins odds for 05/02/2014

In terms of Friday night’s Game 1, home-ice advantage has translated into an advantage on the moneyline for Pittsburgh (-137), while New York (+124) will enter the game as the underdog.

The Penguins are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games against the Rangers, and 4-0-1 in the last five head-to-head matchups played at Consol Energy Center.

The Rangers have won just twice in 11 postseason games in Pittsburgh, all of which were played in the Penguins’ old home, The Igloo. They’ll be hoping the change in scenery proves beneficial.

The Rangers are favored to cover the spread (+1.5). Five of Pittsburgh’s six first round games against the Blue Jackets finished with a one-goal differential (all 4-3), which no doubt played a role in the bookmakers’ thinking.

The total opened at 5. Bookies expect the over to pay out.

The total went over in five of Pittsburgh’s six first round matchups.

The over paid out three times in New York’s seven-game series with Philadelphia, with the under paying out twice and two games finishing with a push.

All four regular season meetings between the two teams saw the over pay out.

Following Friday’s game, the two teams will take to the ice in Pittsburgh again on Sunday for Game 2 before a quick turnaround sees Game 3 played at Madison Square Garden in New York on Monday.


Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks

Game 1: Series tied 0-0

9:30 p.m. ET – In another series opening on Friday night, the Minnesota Wild make the journey to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Blackhawks. The Wild earned an upset win in Game 7 against the Colorado Avalanche to advance, while the Blackhawks – now favorites to win the Western Conference – beat out the St. Louis Blues in six games. The Blackhawks eliminated the Wild 4-1 when these two seasons met in last year’s postseason, and will be favorites in the series.

Odds & Trends

For a full list of today’s NHL playoff odds, click here.

For updated NHL futures odds, click here.

For a selection of NHL team prop bets, click here.

For a selection of NHL player prop bets, click here.

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