Rangers at Islanders Picks and NHL Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 4/13/2013
I always cringe when I hear the word "biggest" when it involves a New York sports team's game. Everything is always "biggest" in the Big Apple because New York is the media and, thus, hype capital of the world. Pretty much every major TV network is headquartered there, and ESPN is essentially in a New York suburb. But for once, I think using biggest is accurate in that Saturday's game between the Rangers and Islanders is the biggest in that rivalry in many years.
The Islanders have been a disaster for more than a decade with some of the worst ownership in all of sports, but things appear to be turning around. They have young talent like John Tavares and are heading to Brooklyn and the sparkling new Barclays Center in a few seasons. New York enters Friday's action at No. 7 in the East with 46 points, tied with No. 6 Ottawa and two ahead of the No. 8 Rangers. The Islanders last saw the playoffs in 2007 and last won a series 20 years ago.
The Rangers are tied in points with No. 9 Winnipeg but have two games in hand on the Jets. Heads would no doubt roll if the Blueshirts miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for only the second time in the past eight seasons -- especially if the Islanders also get in. That would be like your little brother finally beating you in a game of one-on-one in the driveway.
Rangers at Islanders Betting Story Lines
The Islanders have won three straight and are 8-1-1 in their past 10 but still have a negative goal differential of minus-2. Detroit is the only other current playoff team with a minus differential. The Islanders had arguably their best win of the year on Thursday, 2-1 at Boston, behind two goals from Josh Bailey. He has exploded since being put on a line with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo as Bailey has seven points (four goals, three assists) in the last six games.
Remember in January 2011 when goalie Evgeni Nabokov was claimed on waivers by the Islanders and said he would never report to the team? Well, he did play for New York last season, and right now the former Sharks No. 1 is the hottest netminder in the league. In five games this month, his only loss was 2-1 in a shootout to the Caps. In the other four games, Nabokov allowed just one goal in each. His save percentage is a stellar .952 in April.
The Rangers were the most active team at the Trade Deadline, surprising many by trading underachieving Marian Gaborik to Columbus for three players and landing Ryane Clowe from San Jose. Clowe had two goals and an assist in his first game, a blowout of the Penguins, but has been pretty quiet since. The Rangers are 3-1-1 since the deal. They finished a home-and-home with Toronto on Wednesday with a 3-2 shootout win. Carl Hagelin and Ryan McDonagh gave New York a 2-1 lead in the second period, and the game was pretty much over at that point even when Toronto's Phil Kessel tied it at 8:05 of the third. Why? New York is unbeaten in 12 games this season when leading entering the third and 82-0-6 overall in the past three seasons.
Derek Stepan had an assist in Wednesday's win to extend his point streak to six games. The Blueshirts also have gotten a major boost from forward Mats Zuccarello, who recently rejoined the team after a season in Russia's Kontinenal Hockey League. He has two assists and is plus-7 in seven games and had the lone shootout goal against the Leafs. That guy is money in his career in shootouts, going 6-for-12 with four game-enders.
This is the final meeting of the season, with the Rangers leading 2-1. Thus, a win here could be a huge tiebreaker for the Blueshirts.
Rangers at Islanders NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, the Islanders opened at -115 and the Rangers at -105 with the total at 5. The Rangers are 12-20-8 “over/under” (3-12-4 away) and have lost their past two as a dog. The Isles are 22-18-1 O/U (13-8-1 at home) and have won their past four as a favorite.
The Rangers are 3-8 in their past 11 vs. teams with a winning record and 1-4 in their past five on the road and in their past five after a win. The Islanders are 8-1 in their past nine after allowing two goals or fewer in their previous game. They are 5-1 in their past six Saturday games. The under is 7-2-2 in the Rangers' past 11 vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-2 in the Islanders' past seven overall. The home team has won 10 of the past 13 meetings in this series. The over is 8-1 in the past nine on Long Island.
Rangers at Islanders Picks and Betting Predictions
I couldn't love the under more here. Thanks to Nabokov, the Isles have allowed two goals or fewer nine times in the past 10 games and have given up just 15 in that span. Meanwhile, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is starting to play like he did last year, allowing two goals or fewer in 11 of his last 12 games, going 7-3-2 with a 1.80 GAA and.936 save percentage.
Oddly, the Islanders are way better on the road (12-5-2) than at home (9-11-2). The key is likely to be the power play. The Rangers have killed off 17 of 18 penalties in the past six games and are 13-4-2 this season when not allowing a power-play goal. The Islanders are No. 9 in power-play percentage at 20.9 but haven't scored a PP goal against the Rangers this season. The Blueshirts, on the other hand, have three of them. That continues: take the Rangers, who have won six of the past eight meetings, and that under.
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