The battle of the Big Apple takes center stage Tuesday night in Long Island, as the New York Islanders (28-13-4) host the New York Rangers (23-16-6). The Rangers are coming off of a four-game sweep of the Devils, while the Islanders dropped two in a row before beating the Flyers in overtime on Sunday.
This will be the sixth meeting between these inter-city rivals, with the Islanders taking three of the previous five matchups. They’re also the favorite at -142, with the Rangers listed at +120.
By the Numbers
After a slow start, the Rangers’ offense has really taken off. The blue sweaters are fourth in the NHL with 3.33 goals and own the league’s second-best shooting percentage at 11.4 percent, while the Islanders are just 19th with 2.73 goals per game. The Rangers also have a modest advantage on the power play, entering the game with a 20.8 percent success rate versus the Islanders’ 17.1.
Defensively, the teams are tighter than one might think. The Islanders rank second in the league with 2.31 goals allowed, fifth with 28 shots allowed, and boast a top-10 penalty kill at 82.1 percent. However, the Rangers now enter the game seventh with 2.58 goals allowed, 11th with just under 29 shots allowed, and carry the third-best penalty kill rate of 85.1 percent.
Players to Watch
Starting with the visitors, the Rangers have gotten yet another tremendous season from left-wing Artemi Panarin. Panarin is now up to 36 assists and 52 points in just 34 games and has three straight multi-point efforts entering Tuesday’s game.
After a ridiculously slow start to the season, center Mika Zibanejad has been cooking over his last several games. Zibanejad has three goals and six assists over the course of his six-game point streak, bumping him up to 39 total points on the year.
Others that have been rolling include center Ryan Strome, who, with two goals and five assists over the last three games, is second on the team with 44 points. Defenseman Adam Fox is third with 41 points, as the young blue-liner has dished out assists in three of his last four games. In addition, right-wing Pavel Buchnevich now leads New York with 19 goals after netting his first career hat trick last Saturday.
Switching to the Islanders, center Mathew Barzal continues to pad his team lead in points. The 23-year old has a team-high 25 assists as part of his 38 points, which includes a three-game, four-assist streak earlier this month.
Veteran right wing Jordan Eberle has also been able to add to the scoresheet lately. Eberle has one more goal than Barzal and sits second on the team with 29 points, dishing out helpers in three of the past four games.
After those two is defenseman Nick Leddy, who, although is known more for his 24 assists, netted his second goal of the year Sunday in overtime. Among others, center Jean-Gabriel Pageau is starting to heat up with points in two of his last four games, giving him 25 total. Finally, trade deadline acquisitions Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri each have a goal through six games with their new club.
After sitting for the second half of a back-to-back, Igor Shesterkin should once again start in net for the Rangers. Shesterkin has put together a strong campaign, going 13-9-3 with a 2.28 GAA and .925 save percentage.
Although it’s been a true toss-up each game, expect the Islanders to roll with the veteran Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov enters the game 16-9-3, carries a 2.24 GAA and .922 save percentage, and also has four shutouts.
There are a couple of reasons why I think the Rangers are the play Tuesday. For one, no defense has been able to stop the likes of Panarin and Zibanejad recently, while the go-to scorers on the Islanders just don’t carry the same amount of firepower. But the main reason is defense and goaltending, which, thanks to Shesterkin and d-men like Fox and Ryan Lindgren, gives the Rangers the look of a complete and balanced team.
At plus-money and in their own city, bet the Rangers to win this one.
Pick: Rangers +120
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