Free NHL Picks: Series Opener To Side With Penguins -158 vs. Rangers

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 5:00 PM GMT

Our handicapper breaks down Game 1 between the Penguins and Rangers and gives his early lean on this Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup. Check out our NHL pick for the game inside.

The hottest team in the NHL hopes to pick up where they left off in the regular season, as the Pittsburgh Penguins (48-26-8) host the New York Rangers (46-27-9) in this first game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Due to some injuries on both sides of the line, there are few lines currently available, but the ones that are list the Penguins as home favorites at about -150. The O/U total should come in around 5 with a slight lean on the Over.

Must Read: Betting Tips Ahead Of Playoffs

New York Rangers
The New York Rangers had a chance to tank in their last game to avoid a first round matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but did not shy away from this tough draw. If they get past Pittsburgh, the Washington Capitals should be waiting in the wings. Rangers leadership insisted that this was the path that they wanted, as trying to win in the last few games would get them there, and they have what they want.

Of course, the Rangers have knocked the Penguins out of the playoffs the last two seasons, and are 7-1 SU against them in their last 8 games. That is definitely at NHL odds boards with what happened in March, as the Penguins took three straight games from the Rangers – two games as listed underdogs playing in New York.

Losing at home in this series would be unwise for the Rangers, as they have been terrible on the road all year. Their 19-22 ATS record on the road on the season was good for -4.5 units. One of the reasons for this is the Rangers terrible penalty kill performance on the road, where they give up 25.4% of opponents chances. Compare that to a 16.9% penalty kill rate for the Penguins at home and you have the numbers to back a real advantage for Pittsburgh.

The Rangers seem to have dodged a bullet in terms of their starting goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist left practice early on Monday due to illness, but returned to action for Tuesday’s skate. Lundqvist has been stellar against the Penguins in the playoffs over the last two season at Pittsburgh. He has compiled a 4-0 record, 0.99 goals against average, and .965 save percentage in that situation.

Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins have been without their starting goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, for some time due to a concussion. He was in practice on Tuesday though and saw significant workout time. This is an obvious situation that is holding back betting lines from most books. Also seemingly coming back from injury is defenseman, Olli Maatta.

Unfortunately for the Peguins, they will not be with the services of center, Evgeni Malkin, who is out six to eight weeks due to an undisclosed injury suffered in early March. The Penguins were excellent in his absence though, wining 13 of 14 games without him in their hot streak down the stretch.

Although Henrik Lundqvist has been excellent in his career, it is actually the Penguins that have had the better goaltending on the season. Their .918 overall team save percentage was 2nd in the NHL. The Rangers .914 save percentage was tied for 11th in the NHL and they better have that in this game as well because they can’t afford to get behind the Rangers.

The Rangers are 25-3-3 this season after leading games after the 1st period. If they get up on you, their defense and goalie can shut you down the rest of the way. Without an official line out yet, I’m willing to extend a lean to the Penguins at home in this game. Even if Marc-Andre Fleury does not suit up, his replacement has been playing fantastic over the last month.

Look for the Penguins to get revenge in this series against the Rangers having ended their last two seasons, and take Pittsburgh in Game 1 as one of your Wednesday NHL picks

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Free NHL Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins -158
Best Line Offered: at Heritage