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@FastMoneyLabs’ Best Bet - 4/1

New York Islanders (30-27-9) at New York Rangers (44-19-5)

Last week, I suggested the only reason the New York Rangers (NYR) were a playoff team was because of goaltending. Lo and behold, that column quickly became locker room fodder and bulletin board material, serving as the potential catalyst the boys in blue needed to get going:

The team is 4-0 since then, outscoring opponents 18 to 11.

To be fair, my article did speculate that the Rangers’ trade deadline moves could flip the script. Apparently it has. Since the trade deadline:

  • Rangers are scoring 3.52 expected goals per game (7th most) and outshooting opponents at a 57% rate.
  • They’ve also been playing tighter defense, limiting opponents to just 9.09 high-danger scoring chances and 2.17 expected goals per game

Tonight, they return to Madison Square Garden (MSG) for a battle against their in-state rival, the New York Islanders (NYI). NYI will be playing their 2nd leg of a back-to-back, a situation they’re just 4 wins and 9 losses in.

NYI’s projected starting goaltender tonight is Cory Schneider, a 36-year-old veteran who hasn’t played in the NHL this year. The team called him up from the AHL (minor leagues) to presumably make an emergency start tonight. Schneider has 409 games of NHL experience but has yet to play in the big dance this year. Assuming he’s confirmed as starting tonight, it highlights a major edge for NYR.

The New York Rangers are 22-9 (71%) at home this year. As a home favorite, they’re 15-6 (71%). They’re also 37-19 (66%) after a day off, underscoring the benefit of their rest advantage over NYI.

The one factor favoring NYI tonight is their recent record at Madison Square Garden. The Islanders are 5-1 in their last 6 visits to MSG, outscoring NYR by a factor of 2-to-1 (16 goals to 8 goals). The Rangers were held to 1 or less goals in 4 of the 6 games, including 3 shutouts.

Despite that recent history, I see no reason to back NYI and every reason to back the home team in what sets up as a potential clobber fest at MSG tonight. I don’t often bet on the New York Rangers, so when I do, it’s a big deal.

I like the Blueshirts tonight and, from a value perspective, I feel the best bet is to take them to win in regulation (i.e. 60-minutes, no OT). 82% of NYR’s wins this year came in regulation.

$FML Pick

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New York Rangers Moneyline (3-Way) @ -110
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