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New York Rangers (#6 Seed)
While goaltending alone may not bring home a championship, it certainly helps when you have a netminder like Henrik Lundqvist patrolling the crease. The 6'2" Swede has allowed the Rangers to vault from a season of disappointment to a date in the playoffs with the Caps. He notched his second shutout of the season in a 4-0 victory over the Devils which punctuated a 10-4 month of April.
The trade deadline acquisitions of Ryane Clowe, Derick Brassard, John Moore and the yet to dress Derek Dorsett has given this underachieving team a much needed jumpstart. Meanwhile Brad Richards is heating up at the right time and Rick Nash has proven that Rangers management knew what it was doing when they acquired him from Columbus. Twenty-two-year-old Derek Stepan has continued to impress, leading all point New York point-getters with 44 points for the regular season campaign.
While early season offensive woes plagued the Rangers, their defense has been solid throughout. They ranked 4th in goals against and that defensive protection could get even better if top tier defenseman Marc Staal returns from an eye injury that has sidelined him since March 5th. If you are looking for a dark horse in this year's Stanley Cup race then you could do worse in your NHL picks than the Broadway Blueshirts.
Don't forget to check out our picks on the Red Wings vs. Ducks Series!
Washington Capitals (#3 Seed)
The Caps set a torrid pace in April, winning 11 of 13 games and vaulting to the top of the Southeast division. Alexander Ovechkin has come alive at the right time, finally adapting to the right wing and scoring 23 goals in as many games. Along with Ovechkin the Caps have Mike Ribeiro and Niklas Backstrom leading the way in assists with 36 and 40 respectively this season.
The Capitals have allowed 2.7 goals per game which ranks them 18th in the league but their penalty killing unit has been porous, closing the door only 77.9 percent of the time and pitting them near the very bottom of the league. Their defense gives up over 32 shots per game which is third highest in the league. That may give some insight into the relatively modest 2.58 goals against average for starting goaltender Braden Holtby which is reflected by the amount of rubber he faces game in and game out. Despite that, or more accurately considering that, he has a very respectable .920 save percentage in 36 appearances.
And also don't forget to check out our Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview!
We are all looking for value in our NHL odds. but this series will be difficult to predict simply because of the way both teams have exploded down the homestretch. The Rangers won two of three this season, however Washington prevailed in their most recent affair, 3-2 on March 24th in a shootout.
Although no team has been hotter than Washington headed into this one, I am looking at the Rangers to advance in our NHL picks. They have the better defense coupled with arguably the best goaltender on the planet. Their offense has picked up considerably and the team chemistry has even been enhanced since their trade deadline acquisitions.
The only caveat would be Washington's ability to put the puck in the net on the man advantage situation. Alex Ovechkin thrives on the power play unit and their 26.8 percent conversion rate, good for tops in the NHL, is a reflection of his enormous prowess. New York's penalty killing unit is ranked only 15th in the NHL so there is a distinct possibility that they could lose this series if they are not careful about penalties.
Nevertheless, the New York Rangers are the play in my NHL picks as they defeat Washington 4-3 in the series.
Free Pick - New York Rangers at Bet365.