NHL Picks: Capitals at Rangers Game 7 Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 5/11/2012
The NHL’s conference semifinal round has mostly been a dog with three of the four series ending at five games or fewer. Thankfully, the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers are providing some drama with a Game 7 set for Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. It’s totally fitting that this series went the distance because both Washington and the Blueshirts had to win a Game 7 in the first round just to get here.
The Caps forced the winner-take-all game with a 2-1 home win Wednesday thanks to goals from Alex Ovechkin and Jason Chimera and 30 saves from Braden Holtby, the breakout star of these Stanley Cup playoffs – there’s always one virtual unknown who blows up every year in the NHL’s postseason. Five of the six games in this series have been decided by one goal, and two games have needed overtime.
Washington’s ability to bounce back from crushing losses in this series is amazing. The Caps lost Game 3, 2-1, in triple overtime but came right back with a 3-2 win in Game 4. And this series could be over if not for Washington’s Joel Ward. With the Caps clinging to a 2-1 lead in Game 5 and the Rangers having pulled goalie Henrik Lundqvist for an extra attacker, Ward stupidly took a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Carl Hagelin with 21.3 seconds left. New York’s Brad Richards would tie the game on the power play with just over six seconds left and then Marc Staal scored shortly into overtime – still on the power play – for the incredible victory. Yet the Caps managed to brush that off and win Game 6. And Ward probably gets a bit of a pass considering he scored the Game 7 overtime winner in the last round vs. Boston.
Capitals at Rangers Betting Story Lines
It’s almost too bad Washington didn’t lose the last game in overtime, you know, if it hadn’t been for the series. That’s because Holtby is 6-0 in these playoffs in games after losses and Washington is 4-0 in games that follow overtime losses. The Caps haven't lost consecutive games since March 22-23. But the Rangers and Caps have traded wins in this series, so that doesn’t bode well for Washington. Neither does the fact that the Rangers are 4-0 all-time in Games 7s at the Garden.
Except for experience, the goalie matchup looks to be a wash. The Rangers' Lundqvist is 7-6 in these playoffs with a 1.73 goals-against average and .936 save percentage, while Holtby is also 7-6 with a 1.95 GAA and .935 save percentage. However, Holtby might be a bit tired considering his fiancée had a baby on Thursday!
The team that scores first seems likely to prevail as the one that has done so has taken each game so far. The Caps are 7-1 in the postseason when they score first. They are 0-4 when their opponent scores first.
The only injury to be aware of is to Washington checking line center Jay Beagle. He missed Game 6 with a right leg injury and didn’t practice Friday. Beagle is called day-to-day. Jeff Halpern replaced Beagle in the lineup Thursday and committed a major mistake, getting a double-minor for high-sticking to give the Rangers a four-minute power play. This time the Caps kept the Rangers out of the net.
There could be a lineup change for New York. Rookie Chris Kreider was back on the team's second line on the left wing with center Derek Stepan and right wing Ryan Callahan at Friday’s practice. Kreider spent the past two games playing limited minutes on the fourth line after a blunder in Game 4 led directly to a goal by Alex Ovechkin. Kreider hasn’t played more than seven minutes in the past two games. With Kreider on the second line Friday, forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who has zero goals in 13 games in the playoffs, was on the fourth line.
One drought will end for sure. The Rangers haven’t been to the conference finals since 1997, while the Caps haven’t since 1998. Whoever prevails will face the well-rested New Jersey Devils – Game 1 is Monday -- with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line.
And you may not want to bet on the Rangers or Caps hoisting the Cup. Since the playoffs went to a best-of-seven format for all four rounds in 1987, no team has won the Cup after having to go to seven games in each of the first two. Last year’s Bruins became the first team since the 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins to win it all after surviving a seven-game series in the opening round.
Capitals at Rangers Betting Odds and Key Trends
New York is a +145 favorite with the Caps at anywhere from +115 to +135 depending where you look. The total is unanimous at 4.5. The Rangers were 27-12-0-2 at home during season and are 4-3 in playoffs. The ‘over’ has hit just once in the postseason for the Rangers. Washington was 16-21-2-2 on road during season and is 4-3 in playoffs. The over has hit just three times for Caps in postseason.
Washington has won seven of its past eight Saturday games but is 2-9 in its past 11 games as a dog from +110-+150. New York is 1-4 in its past five Saturday games. The Rangers are 4-1 in their past five after scoring two goals or fewer in the previous game. The over hasn’t hit once in the past nine meetings between these two.
NHL Picks: Capitals at Rangers Betting Predictions
Washington wasn’t supposed to win Game 7 in Boston in the last round,, but I went with the Caps as the +170 underdogs. So they are familiar with winning a Game 7 away from home, although that improved the franchise to only 3-8 all-time in a winner-take-all game. New York’s Game 7 victory over Ottawa in the last round was at the Garden to improve the Blueshirts to 4-5 all-time in Game 7s (again, though, 4-0 at home).
Since 2000, there have been 12 second-round series that went the distance and half of those ended in upsets. Since the lockout, four of six have ended with the lower-seeded team winning. Make that five of seven – the Caps look like a team of destiny to me. They win 2-1, so go with the ‘under’.
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