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Penguins/Rangers Series Preview: Pittsburgh a small favorite?

Some models are favoring the Pens

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Even though the Penguins aren’t exactly roaring into the playoffs with a ton of positive momentum this spring — especially with the recent injury to Tristan Jarry — many an analytic model still likes their chances against the Rangers.

Moneypuck.com has Pittsburgh with a 64.4% chance to make the second round. On DraftKings it’s more of a dead heat, with each team holding the same, nominal betting odds of -110 at the moment.

In one of the better written pieces of the year, Dom Luszczszyn of The Athletic (along with Shayna Goldman) put out the typical magnum opus for the series preview.

It’s well worth the read but here’s part of the synopsis:

If Shesterkin plays the way everyone knows he can, this will be a very difficult series to win for the Penguins — especially with their own goaltending issues. Pittsburgh needs to overwhelm New York on the shot clock to nullify that advantage, something the team is more than capable of doing, but may prove difficult considering the way the Rangers have played down the stretch.

The Rangers are coming into the playoffs hot, have the star power necessary to win and the best goalie in the world. They’ve solved many of their depth problems and have the heaviness to impose their will on a smaller team.

That seems somewhat surprising that models are very bullish on the Penguins, but then again while a lot of Pens’ fans have been pessimistic, they’re probably also likely overly negative at times.

The Rangers, for instance, have question marks about their third pair. Artemi Panarin and Andrew Copp are expected to play, but neither may be 100% at the moment. A ton of the Rangers’ more important players have very little NHL playoff experience (Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren played three bubble games in 2020) or none at all (K’Andre Miller, Filip Chytil, Braden Schneider, Igor Shesterkin, Alexis Lafreniere).

According to Dom’s model this could be “one of the closest series of the first round and there’s plenty of reason to think either team could take it”. But even possibly without Tristan Jarry and going in to face Shesterkin, the Penguins might just have a better chance of winning than the average person might think upon first glance due to their play-driving at 5v5, skilled forwards and impressive amount of depth.