Just about every team in the NHL has faced some level of adversity this season, however, the Rangers have had to deal with more than their fair share of bad luck. It’s still unlikely they will make the playoffs, given that they’ve got a lot of ground to make up in a short period of time, but now that Igor Shesterkin is back at practice, the forecast is a little more optimistic.
Shesterkin’s imminent return couldn’t have come at a better time as the Rangers will visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday and Saturday before going to D.C. to face the Washington Capitals on Sunday in the first half of a home-and-home series that will conclude on Tuesday at the Garden.
That’s three games in four days, but the Rangers will have had two days off prior to their first match against the Flyers, who will be playing their third game in four days. Given that the Rangers were home underdogs in recent meetings against the Flyers, bettors can presume the Flyers will carry the chalk into this meeting. How much chalk will depend on whether Sean Couturier, who was a late scratch on Saturday, is back in the lineup.
However, assuming Shesterkin gets the start, the Rangers should be a slight favorite in the first matchup by my calculations. The Rangers’ chances of winning the game could be as high as 55 percent if the Flyers are without Couturier, but regardless of his status, there will be value betting the Rangers on the moneyline at even money or better.
Flyers’ goaltender Carter Hart has a .875 save percentage in 20 games and Brian Elliott’s .892 mark seems to be overshadowed by the fact that he’s gone 7-4-0 while Hart has posted an 8-7-0 mark. Alexandar Georgiev will likely see action in one of the two games, and although the Rangers chances of winning a given game decrease if he starts over Shesterkin, bettors should expect the Rangers to get the better of the Flyers on an aggregate basis the way they have in the four previous meetings.
Regardless of who is in goal, the Rangers are a value bet as a road underdog in Philadelphia. The Rangers are a top-10 team league wide by expected goals according to Evolving Hockey. That puts them slightly above Flyers and Capitals.
In four meetings with the Capitals this season, the Rangers clearly have been the better team. The Rangers have generated approximately 60 percent of the expected goals overall and have outscored the Capitals 12-5. Sunday’s meeting will be the third game in four nights for the Capitals, who play the New Jersey Devils on Friday and Saturday.
If Shesterkin starts Sunday, assuming he has Saturday off, then this game is a coin flip. The Rangers likely will be a sizable ’dog that day, given that they were recently a home ’dog against the Capitals. Bet the Rangers on the moneyline regardless of who the opposing goaltender is. When the two teams meet again Tuesday, it will be the fourth game in six days for each. Bet on the Rangers if they are a home ’dog.
The Rangers have an opportunity to get back into the thick of the playoff race and I likely will be backing them to do so on a game-by-game basis.