NHL Picks: Penguins Depth To Cause Rangers Pain Tonight

Mark Lathrop

Saturday, April 16, 2016 12:00 PM GMT

Our NHL handicapper looks at Game 2 between the Rangers and Penguins in the Eastern Conference quarters. Is there a reason to fade the Penguins as your NHL Pick?

The hottest team in the NHL definitely showed fans why they came into the playoffs as favorites in game 1, as the Pittsburgh Penguins handily beat the New York Rangers in the first game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, 5-2. The Penguins are also favorites in Game 2 on Saturday night after two days of rest, with the moneyline as high as -170 over at BookMaker. The books are also predicting a higher scoring affair, as the total in NHL Odds has opened at 5½ (-131 Under) over at BetOnline.

The Rangers have knocked the Penguins out of the playoffs the last two seasons and were 7-1 SU against them in their last 8 games in the postseason, which is why I looked at the revenge factor for a lean towards the Penguins in the first matchup. Pittsburgh has also taken 4 straight games from the Rangers since early March, suggesting that the current state of these teams is creating a match up with value on one side. Especially on the road, as the Rangers are now 19-23 ATS record on the road this season after this game 1 loss.

New York Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist left practice early on Monday due to illness, but was able to start in Wednesday’s game. He wasn’t in for long though, as he took a stick to the eye from his own player in the first period. He stayed in the game, allowed a goal, then did not come out for the 2nd period or after. Lundqvist has been stellar against the Penguins in the playoffs over the last two season at Pittsburgh, and all indications are that he will start on Saturday night even though he may not be 100%. He is not having the best week, which can affect a position that is as much mental as physical on the ice.

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 and was again at practice on Thursday. In a bit of gamesmanship though, it was Jeff Zatkoff that got the start for the Penguins in game 1. Zatkoff allowed 2 goals on 37 shots for a .946 save percentage on the night, and was under fire for most of the 1st period while Pittsburgh’s offense was in a slumber to start the game. Fleury could easily start in game 2 though, which would be another feather in the Penguin’s cap.  

Penguin’s center, Evgeni Malkin, who is out six to eight weeks due to an undisclosed injury suffered in early March, has also been a full practice participant this week. The Penguins have excelled without him, but his return to the lineup this series will provide a great boost to the Penguins line shifts. It has been tossed around that Malkin could return in Game 5, exactly six weeks from his injury, but there has to be motivation to end this series in 4 games to give Malkin even more time to rest.

If Malkin comes back sooner though, the Rangers are definitely in trouble. Their 2nd and 3rd line is significantly slower than that of the Penguins, which is causing mismatches and quality shots on goal. There seems to be no reason to buck trends and back the Rangers in this game, and this line could continue to rise, which is why today's NHL pick is the Pittsburgh Penguins at -161 at Heritage well before the puck drops on Saturday night.

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NHL Pick:  Penguins -161
Best Line Offered:  at Heritage