Pittsburgh Penguins Vs. New York Rangers
Market WatchThe Rangers open the playoffs as the Stanley Cup favorite, and the team most likely to win in the first round at -223 (69.1%). From where I'm sitting, that is far too high. Yes, they might win this series, but I'd be surprised if this wasn't close. It's hard to believe, but there is actually value on the Pittsburgh Penguins for once.
Bottom LineThe biggest problem for the Penguins is the absence of Kris Letang. He was playing at a Norris level this year before he was ruled out with a concussion. But even beyond that, the Penguins aren't nearly as bad as the perception out there. When you have two franchise players up front like Crosby and Malkin, you are going to be in most games you play.
The surprising stat this year is in the puck possession category. The Rangers are a middle of the pack team at 50.5 SAF%. Part of the reason why I picked the Rangers to make the finals last year was because they were far better than anyone else in the East at controlling the puck. In contrast, the Penguins have a possession rate of 53.5 SAF% this year, and even when they were going through their slump at the end of the year, they remained among the league leaders with the puck.
In goal, King Henrik hasn't been good on the PK this year either. His PK SV% is 25th among starters this season. That could be bad news for New York because the Pens are 8th in PP FF/60. On the flip side, Fleury is 3rd in the NHL in PK SV%, and his resurgence could be for real this time.
I'm not sure if Pittsburgh can win this series given the injuries they have on the blueline, but I do think the price for this matchup is far too inflated. The Pens could thrive in an underdog role, and I have no problem rolling with the Pens to win at least three games.
Pick: Penguins +1.5 (-115) (2u)
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