NHL Picks: Penguins vs. Rangers

David Lawrence

Sunday, January 20, 2013 1:36 PM UTC

Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013 1:36 PM UTC

The Pittsburgh Penguins opened up their season with a rather impressive 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. Can they do the same against the Rangers for our NHL picks?

NHL Betting – Penguins vs. Rangers NHL Picks

Record: 4-3

In the 2012 playoffs, the Flyers had thrashed the Penguins and scored 30 goals in six games. The Pens displayed their progress from then to now by holding the Flyers to just one goal in yesterday’s win.

The Pens now take their show on the road to New York as they face the Rangers, who are the favorites to win the East. We’ll see if the Pens can take care of the top two teams in the East right off the bat and give themselves and early leg up in the power rankings.

The Pittsburgh Penguins can win because…

They had the Rangers number last season. While the Pens struggled against the Flyers throughout the entire 2011-12 campaign, they had no such issues against the Rangers. Pittsburgh won four out of six meetings – winning the last four – and that’s fairly impressive considering Sidney Crosby was not healthy for many of those contests. The Pens had no trouble breaking through the Rangers tight defense as they scored 16 goals in the last four meetings.

The Pens looked crisp against the Flyers in their opener and the entire team effort was impressive. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 of 27 shots, the Pens killed off each of the Flyers five man-advantages, their own power play went two-for-three and each of their top two lines contributed points in the win. The fact that they put forth this type of effort on the road against the team that ended their 2012 season is going to be a huge confidence boost.

Much is made of Henrik Lundqvist being the best goalie in the NHL but Fleury, who is a good goaltender in his own right, has played very well against the Rangers. He went 4-2-0 against them last season while posting a GAA of just 2.01. If he puts up another effort like that, the Pens should be leaving New York 2-0-0 on Sunday.

The New York Rangers can win because…

Henrik Lundqvist is a difference-maker. Even though the Pens had the Rangers number last season, two of their wins came when Lundqvist wasn’t between the pipes. King Henrik went 2-2-0 against them while posting a measly 2.28 GAA. The year before, Lundqvist was 4-1-1 with a 2.29 GAA.

In previous years, the Rangers didn’t have the firepower to match up with teams like the Penguins because Pittsburgh could roll two or three lines and the Rangers just had their top unit. Now the Rangers have more depth, more balance and more options with addition of Rick Nash. When you add Nash to Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and Chris Kreider, New York can finally go toe-to-toe on the offensive end and still have the edge on the blue line.

While the Pens defense looked strong against the Flyers on Saturday, don’t assume anything just yet. One game doesn’t make a season. People questioned the Pens blue line before the season started and they should get another stiff test from a good offensive team on Sunday.

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Outlook & NHL Betting Prediction:

This is a coin-flip matchup but with the Pens being underdogs, they are going to be the NHL free pick here. The Rangers were a better road team last season and they also played late on Saturday (7:00 PM ET) compared to the Pens, who were finished early thanks to a mid-afternoon start. Take the value with the Pens here.

NHL Picks: Penguins +105 at Bookmaker

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