Hockey is back in action as the eight opening round series begin at the two hub cities. In the Eastern Conference, the sixth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes draw an interesting matchup with the New York Rangers, who are the 11th seed. This best-of-five series matches a team that went to the Eastern Conference final last season with a young, rebuilding squad that will be excited to play playoff hockey in this expanded format. The first game is set for Saturday at noon EST with a potential Game 5 scheduled for Aug. 8.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers: Playoffs Opening Round Free Pick & Predictions
Free Picks & Predictions
The series between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers is intriguing because of how close these two teams were in the final standings. The Rangers finished just two points back of the Hurricanes, and won all four meetings with the Hurricanes this season, including a rather comfortable 5-2 win in late February.
The Hurricanes are deservedly favorites at all the NHL betting sites in New Jersey, but the -136 odds being offered are a bit scary for several reasons. Carolina’s goaltending is still an issue considering starter Petr Mrazek had a quality start just 50 percent of the time, a little bit below the league average. The Hurricanes overcome that with a balanced scoring attack led by Sebastian Aho’s 66 points and a gritty defensive corps that isn’t afraid to be physical.
Goaltending isn’t as much an issue with the Rangers as a question because no one is sure which of their three goalies will start the postseason. The likely choice is Igor Shesterkin, who was the team’s starter when the season was put on pause and was 10-2 with a .932 save percentage and 2.52 goals against average. But New York could also try to ride the experienced Henrik Lundquist for another long playoff run, though the 37-year-old had the worst stats of the three choices this season.
What New York has going for it is having the best player in the series in forward Artemi Panarin, who had 32 goals and 95 points in 69 games this year. Mika Zibanejad has quietly had a great season as well with 41 goals and 34 assists to finish second on the team in scoring and Chris Kreider has been steady with another 20-goal, 20-assist campaign.
The Rangers have the better scorer in Panarin, arguably the better goaltender in Shesterkin, and they won all four games with Carolina this season fairly comfortably. The play is to bet the Rangers to win the series at +120 odds, and maybe get bold enough to put some money down on the Rangers to win in four (+440) or five (+435) games.
NJ Legal Betting Sites
More NHL Free PicksSee more
Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper