NHL Odds and Picks: New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils Game 3
by Alan Matthews - 5/18/2012
The New Jersey Devils were good to us in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night. The Devils went off as +110 dogs and beat New York, 3-2, to even the series at a game apiece. Really, it was an easy call, however, so I can’t take too much credit. The Devils have won every game in these playoffs after falling behind in the series in the previous game. The Rangers, meanwhile, had lost Game 2 at home in the first two rounds after winning the opener.
Now the bitter rivals travel back across the river with an extra day off for Saturday night’s crucial Game 3. New Jersey is 1-1 so far in this postseason in home Game 3s, falling 4-3 in the first round to Florida and beating the Flyers 4-3 in overtime in the conference semifinals. The Rangers are 1-1 in road Game 3s with both going to overtime. They won 1-0 at Ottawa in Round 1 and 2-1 at the Caps. So I guess going by those trends this will be a one-goal game with a 4-3 final score Saturday (highly doubt that).
Rangers at Devils Betting Story Lines
It’s been pretty simple for the Blueshirts in these playoffs: score first and they win, don’t and they lose. That trend continued in Game 2 as the Devils got the first goal. But the game was tied 2-2 entering the third period before David Clarkson scored a tip-in goal off Adam Henrique's shot 2:31 into the third period for the final margin. Clarkson has been a money man in these playoffs as all three of his goals have been game-winners. Martin Brodeur stopped 23 saves for his 108th playoff win.
You may remember Brodeur caused a bit of a stir after Game 1 when the Rangers blocked 26 New Jersey shots. The future Hall of Famer casually mentioned that perhaps the Devils should start shooting at the feet or faces of those sliding Rangers. Whatever the case, New York blocked just 16 on Wednesday as the Devils got 27 shots on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. It was the first time in the past five games that Lundqvist faced more than 23 shots.
One positive from Game 2 for the Rangers was that New York scored two more power-play goals – by Marc Staal and rookie Chris Kreider. The Devils, who set an NHL record during the regular season by killing 89.6 percent of power-play chances, continue to struggle to kill penalties in the postseason. The Rangers are 3-for-8 so far and the Devils have allowed 15 power-play goals on just 54 attempts in 14 playoff games. Their 72.2 percent PK rate is the worst of any team that made it past the first round.
But the biggest story of Game 2 was Rangers Coach John Tortorella benching regular-season leading scorer Marian Gaborik for a large chunk of the third period even though the Rangers were trailing for most of it. During a post-game press conference when Tortorella was very terse with the media, he did in a general sense go out of his way to emphasize the magnitude of Gaborik’s defensive zone giveaway that led to Devils fourth-liner Ryan Carter’s game-tying goal with 1:51 to play in the second – Tortorella did so without mentioning Gaborik’s name. After that giveaway, Gaborik sat for the next 12:53 of game time and also wasn’t on the ice for the final 1:29 of the game when Lundqvist was pulled for an extra attacker. Tortorella used every one of his other top-six forwards except Gaborik.
Tortorella is a defense-first coach and he obviously was sending a message. But his stubbornness might have cost the Rangers in Game 2. Gaborik has four goals and six assists in the playoffs, trailing only Brad Richards this spring. Offense has been a problem throughout the postseason for the Rangers as they are averaging just 2.12 goals per game.
Captain Ryan Callahan, who was second on the team in goals and third in points during the season, has just one goal and two assists in the past 12 games (no points in this series). No 1 line left winger Carl Hagelin has zero goals and three assists in 13 games. But New York’s shot blocking and Lundqvist’s brilliance have masked the offensive struggles most of the time.
Rangers at Devils Betting Odds and Key Trends
New Jersey is a -125 favorite for Game 3 with New York at +115. The total is 4.5 (you can find this at five at some books, which I highly recommend). The Rangers were 24-12-2-3 on road during season and are 3-3 in playoffs. Only one Rangers playoff game has gone ‘over’ the total (when set at 5). New Jersey was 24-13-0-4 at home during season and is 4-1 in playoffs. The over has hit five times in these playoffs (when set at 5).
The Rangers are 2-8 in their past 10 playoff games as an underdog. New York is 6-1 in its past seven games when scoring two or fewer goals in the previous game. New Jersey is 8-3 in its past 11 games when its opponent scores two or fewer goals in the previous game. The ‘under’ is 3-1-2 in the past six games between these two in New Jersey.
NHL Picks: Rangers at Devils Betting Predictions
Just like the Devils have bounced back from a big loss in these playoffs, so have the Rangers. Their only back-to-back defeats came in Games 4 and 5 in the Senators series and then the Blueshirts won the final two. I think that trend continues. So go with New York and the under. I would also take a prop on whether Gaborik gets a point as I’m think that benching will light a fire under him.
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