Trends Indicate Higher Scoring In Penguins vs. Rangers Game 3

Mark Lathrop

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 11:00 AM GMT

Pittsburgh got Evgeni Malkin back for game 2, but apparently the rest of the team forgot how to play defense. Our handicapper looks for betting value to select an NBA Pick in this series as it shifts back to New York.

The Pittsburgh Penguins got another star player back for game 2 in Evgeni Malkin, but the Penguins were unable to execute their game plan and lost 4-2 to the New York Rangers as -161 moneyline favorites on NHL Odds. Game 3 changes venues to New York and the game is nearly pick’em, with a slight lean on the Penguins at -111 at BetOnline. The O/U total has opened at 5.5 with a lean to the under coming in at -140 at Heritage.

It is my observation that when a team is getting a star player back, the other pieces of the team relax in anticipation of a smaller workload. That was definitely the case in this game, as the Penguins were outhustled in all aspects. There were also changes in the Pittsburgh lines that had worked so well coming into this game, lines that were hugely successful in the last 16 game stretch for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin is a natural center and usually has his own line, but was inserted at the wing for most of this game by head coach, Mike Sullivan. This had an effect of changing the mix of players on the ice at any given time in comparison to past weeks. There is also the fact that a player returning from a six-week absence and getting thrust into playoff level NHL hockey is going to be rusty.

Although he has not been cleared to come back from his concussion as late as Sunday, getting starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury back in the lineup may begin to be more important for the Penguins as this series moves on. Third-string goalie Jeff Zatkoff was good in the first game of the series, but gave up 4 goals in 28 chances on Saturday night, although a few of those were shots that no goalie would stop because of the mistakes made by the defense. Getting Fleury back in goal would be a big boost to the Penguins at this time. Regular backup goaltender, Matt Murray, also practiced on Monday for the Penguins as well.

New York Ranger goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, didn’t seem to be effected by getting a stick to the eye in game 1. The veteran stopped 29 of 31 shots on the night for a .936 save percentage.

With the venue changing to New York, we can inspect some trends between these two teams playing there. The Rangers are 6-6 SU against the Penguins at home of the last three seasons. The O/U total has also paid out at a 6-5 rate slightly favoring the Over. Not really strong trends to write home about. Pittsburgh won both games in New York in the regular season, with the O/U going 1-0-1 in the two games. Over the last five games, the Over is also 3-0-2 between these two teams.

Early line movement is favoring the Rangers. At BetDSI they opened as even money +100 for game 3, but that line quickly moved to -105. The same line move occurred at BookMaker indicating that knee-jerk reactions to the line was a wager on New York. The trends coming into this one also indicate that the line will be very close to even money when it settles on a number.

As the only trend we have here is slightly favoring the Over, and Pittsburgh is having issues incorporating returning players, I am leaning towards a play on the total here. At 5.5 goals, the Over pays +130 at Heritage, so a nice boost with plus-odds as well. I’m making a small play on Over 5.5 goals in this matchup as one of my NHL Picks.

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Free NHL Pick:  Rangers Over 5½ +135
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

2016 NHL Record: 8-7-0, -.70 Units