NHL Odds – Are the Rangers Really This Good?

It’s understandable if the NHL has slipped your mind in the last few weeks. After all, there’s been a few more important things going on: the longest championship drought in America ending, Durant vs Westbrook Round I, the election that’s sure to destroy the free world. So if you are just getting caught up with hockey, you may find some shocking discoveries upon checking the latest standings.

No, I’m not talking about the Oilers currently leading the Pacific. It’s a garbage division. The only shock is why a team that had a thousand first-overall picks took this long to get there.

Instead, the biggest eyebrow raiser has come from another tiny market, New York City. After years of playing slow, defensive hockey that relied on Henrik Lundqvist to steal every other game, the Rangers have suddenly become the most exciting team to watch in the Big Apple (although it’s not like the Knicks or Jets are providing much competition).

With a dominant plus-29 goal differential through 16 games, the Rangers aren’t just winning games; they’re sending starting goalies running for the safe embrace of the bench. New York has potted five or more goals in eight games already, and their 4.06 goals per game average has them on pace to score the most of any team since the ’04-’05 lockout.

The offseason changes to this team followed a simple theme: “out with the old, in with the young.” Dan Boyle retired on his own (mostly expletive) terms; Eric Staal and Keith Yandle weren’t re-signed; and Derick Brassard was swapped for Mika Zibanejad. The Rangers somehow even landed coveted college free agent Jimmy Vesey.

This youth movement has certainly helped them become a faster team offensively, rolling four capable lines instead of your typical “bangers.” They’re pretty much emulating the strategy of last year’s champion Pittsburgh Penguins and so far, the results have been similarly effective. The Rangers fourth line has combined for 25 points to start the year, and they’re supposed to be the weakest of the bunch.

It all sounds great in theory; four capable scoring lines means an opponent’s top checking line can’t just focus on one matchup. It also means if Kevin Hayes suddenly goes on a cold streak, other guys can pick up the slack. But can this hold over an 82-game season?

There are some red flags surrounding this Rangers team, most notably a ridiculously fortuitous shooting percentage. New York is scoring on 13.68-percent of its shots, over four-percent higher than the league average of 9.04. The team’s leading scorer, Michael Grabner, is shooting 27.3-percent, more than double his career average. The law of averages would suggest the Rangers can expect an offensive regression at some point this year.

Another indicator that a decline may be on the horizon is their puck possession metrics. In 5-on-5 situations, the Rangers rank in the bottom third in both Corsi and Fenwick, which basically means their opponents are directing more pucks at the net. New York is just doing more with its opportunities.

Even in the face of numbers that suggest an offensive decline, there’s no reason to think New York can’t keep winning. After all, Lundqvist is not having a great start to the year in net, posting his worst save percentage since 2009. Unless you think that, at age 34, his best years are behind him, then an improved effort in net would help offset any goal scoring droughts in the future.

So perhaps the Rangers are great; what can you do with this information? Honestly, ignoring it is probably the best option. They’ve started the season like total gangbusters, and still have Pittsburgh nipping at their heels in the Metropolitan Division. The sequel is never as good as the original, and the Penguins returned all their forwards from last year’s Cup winner. There’s also the fact that Sidney Crosby is playing perhaps the best hockey of his life as extra incentive to back the Pens.

New York has rocketed up the futures board to around 11/1, but that just seems to highlight the value of Pittsburgh at 9/1.

And if you think taking the Rangers to win their division might be a wiser move, remember that the reigning President’s Trophy winner, the Washington Capitals, are also lurking. They’ve been unusually inept offensively to start the year, yet thanks to Braden Holtby, they’re just five points back of New York with two games in hand.

The story on the Rangers might just be: fun team in a league desperately needing more of them. But if you do think this New York team can be for real across an entire season, here are some updated odds.


NHL Futures

Odds to win the Metropolitan Division:

  • Pittsburgh Penguins: 2/1
  • Washington Capitals: 5/2
  • New York Rangers: 3/1
  • New Jersey Devils: 8/1
  • Columbus Blue Jackets: 20/1
  • Philadelphia Flyers: 25/1
  • New York Islanders: 40/1
  • Carolina Hurricanes: 80/1

Odds to win Stanley Cup

  • Montreal Canadiens: 8/1
  • Chicago Blackhawks: 9/1
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: 9/1
  • Tampa Bay Lightning: 10/1
  • Washington Capitals: 10/1
  • New York Rangers: 11/1
  • Edmonton Oilers: 14/1
  • St Louis Blues: 14/1
  • San Jose Sharks: 16/1
  • Anaheim Ducks: 20/1
  • Minnesota Wild: 20/1
  • Los Angeles Kings: 22/1
  • Dallas Stars: 26/1
  • Nashville Predators: 26/1
  • New Jersey Devils: 30/1
  • Winnipeg Jets: 30/1
  • Boston Bruins: 35/1
  • Florida Panthers 35/1
  • Detroit Red Wings: 40/1
  • Ottawa Senators: 40/1
  • Philadelphia Flyers: 40/1
  • Buffalo Sabres: 50/1
  • New York Islanders: 50/1
  • Columbus Blue Jackets: 60/1
  • Toronto Maple Leafs: 60/1
  • Calgary Flames: 70/1
  • Carolina Hurricanes: 80/1
  • Vancouver Canucks: 100/1
  • Arizona Coyotes: 200/1

Photo credit: justin yamada (Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/].

Boris

Hockey may be a wildly unpopular sport in the U.S., but where no one is paying attention, there's a ton of value for Boris to mine. An avid NHL fan of over 20 years, Malloy made his first bet against a friend during the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals (going against Ray Bourque) and has been hooked ever since. He has yet to pay off that debt of $2, but he's made plenty back since. In between worrying about the league's next lockout, he regularly contributes to MTS and is also fluent in football, basketball, baseball and French (sort of).

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