When the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers meet on Wednesday in Game 5 of the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, one team will have a chance to close out the series. Rather surprisingly it’s not the Rangers. A top NHL pick to win the series with arguably the best goaltender in the league, the Rangers were moved to the brink of elimination with a 7-2 setback on Monday night, allowing seven goals for the second straight game. Likely Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin was yanked for a second straight game after allowing 10 goals in two straight New York losses and some are wondering if he’ll even be between the pipes when the series resumes.
Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers
Date and Time: Wednesday, May 11, 2022, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Opening NHL Odds: Pittsburgh +110, Rangers -130, O/U 6
Penguins at Rangers TV Coverage: ESPN
NHL Playoff Analysis
Maybe the Rangers overachieved during the regular season. They won 52 games and finished seven points clear of the Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ve looked nothing like the club that outscored opponents by 47 goals while allowing the second-fewest goals against. With Shesterkin posting impressive numbers in 53 regular season games, it was expected the Rangers would have the edge in goal. Shesterkin led the NHL with a 2.07 GAA and .935 save percentage while posting six shutouts.
He hasn’t been nearly as sharp in the playoffs especially over the last two games allowing 10 goals in a little under three full periods of action. It was a far cry from the first two games when Shesterkin dazzled stopping 95 percent of Pittsburgh shots, including a 79-save effort in the Game 1 triple-overtime contest. It hasn’t been entirely the fault of the goalie, though. The Rangers haven’t put much pressure on Pittsburgh’s third string goalie Louis Domingue, who made 22 saves on Monday to win his third game of the series.
Limping to the finish line as a 50 percent NHL betting line pick for most of March and April, the Penguins are showing the form that led them to back-to-back Stanley Cup victories several years ago. And a familiar face is leading the way. Sidney Crosby notched a goal and three assists in Monday’s 7-2 victory giving him nine points (2G, 7A) in four games. Pittsburgh has several multiple goal scorers in the series and averaged 5.0 goals in the first four games.
It’s been an unusual series in that the teams have scored plenty with the winner tallying at least four goals in every game and the clubs averaging 8.5 goals per contest. That’s led to them easily cashing the OVER on the NHL betting line in all four contests. It’s a pace that seems unlikely to continue, but we thought that after the Penguins emerged with a 7-4 victory in Game 3.
NHL Betting Trends
The Rangers find themselves in a scary predicament heading into Game 5. Known for their stingy defense during the regular season, they were an NHL best pick against the UNDER going 47-32. Shesterkin was sharp in the first two games, but the Rangers got only a split losing the opener in triple overtime. New York allowed seven goals twice during the season and they matched that in the previous two games with the likely Vezina Trophy winner getting yanked in each contest.
A number of players on the Penguins know that a hot goalie can win a series, and they don’t want to let Shesterkin and the Rangers off the hook. Their pressure, particularly in the last two games, was relentless and unlike New York their scorers have finished. Jake Guentzel led them with 40 goals during the regular season and he’s tallied in every game for five total goals so far.
While a lot of the names have changed, the Penguins still have a core group that’s been through the grind. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang all know what it takes to be successful and win a Stanley Cup. And while it’s been a few years since they advanced to the second round, Pittsburgh is playing like a team that doesn’t want to extend that streak. And they’ve been able to penetrate a goalie that had their number during the regular season. Pittsburgh tallied only four goals in four regular season games with New York. The Pens topped that number in the second period of Game 4 scoring five times in the frame putting the best goaltender in the world on the bench. Fans of Herb Brooks will get the reference. With a chance to close out the series and with a shaken goalie at the other end, the Pens are the NHL consensus pick at Sugarhouse sportsbook in this matchup.
NHL Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins / UNDER