The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin on Monday night.
And plenty of bettors are backing the Broadway Blueshirts to emerge from the East.
As of Monday morning, the New York Rangers owned the highest ticket (27.3%) and handle (30.9%) percentages to win the Eastern Conference finals at BetMGM, making them the sportsbook’s biggest NHL betting liability in that department.
The Blueshirts (7.7%) also had the third-highest handle percentage to win the Cup at BetMGM, behind only favorites Colorado (31.8%) and Florida (9.4%).
New York bettors can get the best price on the Rangers at FanDuel Sportsbook: +1700 to win the Cup, +950 to win the East.
Public favors Rangers to advance in Round 1
The Rangers face the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden — and the NY sports betting public overwhelmingly believes New York will win the first-round series. At BetMGM, 88% of bets and 95% of handle backed the Rangers (-105). Pittsburgh is priced at -110.
The reason for so much optimism: The Rangers (110 points) have arguably the best goaltender in the NHL. Igor Shesterkin has only played in one postseason game in his career. But the 26-year-old stands as a virtual lock to capture the Vezina Trophy (-800 at DraftKings) after posting a league-best 2.07 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
Add in plenty of star power and dominant special teams play, and there’s a lot to like. Chris Kreider, with 26 of his 52 goals coming on the power play, makes a living in the blue paint. Artemi Panarin (74 assists) is a wizard as a passer. And Mika Zibanejad’s one-timer from the left circle is lethal.
Penguins disadvantaged in goaltending department
The Rangers will need to improve their 5-on-5 play, and they have some youngsters on the blue line. But the additions of Andrew Copp and Frank Vetrano up front have added more balance. Tyler Motte (upper-body injury) could also return later in the series.
Coach Gerard Gallant will presumably lean on his defensive pairing featuring Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller to contain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And we’d be remiss if we forgot about reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox, who figures to play a significant role.
The Rangers went 3-1 against the Penguins during the regular season, outscoring Pittsburgh 11-4.
The Penguins are without starting goalie Tristan Jarry (lower-body), leaving backup Casey DeSmith to get the nod between the pipes. It’s possible Jarry could return before the end of the series.
But the Blueshirts certainly have a big advantage in net.