NHL Odds & Pick for Rangers vs. Flyers: Back Philadelphia Against Struggling New York Attack
Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Joel Farabee.
- The Flyers host the Rangers, as they look to turn things around in February.
- Philly hasn't been very active this month, while the Rangers have struggled offensively without Artemi Panarin.
- Sam Hitchcock breaks down how he's betting this East Division matchup.
Rangers vs. Flyers Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET and via BetMGM.|
February has not been kind to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers were 7-2-1 entering the month, looking like they might contend with the Boston Bruins for first in the East Division title.
Philadelphia proceeded to lose two of its next three contests, which was followed by a week and a half of game postponements. Once the Flyers returned to action, they promptly lost to the New York Rangers and Boston.
The narrative has shifted from “Will they win the division?” to “Can they make the playoffs?”
The Flyers’ metrics are not great this season, and their goaltending has not been as stalwart as last season. But Philly’s opponent Wednesday, the Rangers, can’t score. In two games without Artemi Panarin, who has taken a leave of absence from the team, New York has scored twice.
Let’s dig into why the Flyers are the pick in this game.
New York Rangers
The Flyers are one of four teams in the NHL that is allowing 32 or more shots against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. They also are manufacturing the fewest shots per hour at 5-on-5.
So, make no mistake, the Rangers can control play if they stay out of the penalty box.
With goalscoring scarce of late, viewers should expect to see an emboldened New York defensive group. The Rangers’ defensemen will be aggressive on their pinches and in trying to limit the Flyers’ ability to generate speed in the neutral zone.
But, above all else, the Rangers need a big effort from defenseman Adam Fox.
Fox played 21 minutes per game in his first two outings this season. Just more than a month later, in the Rangers’ last meeting against the Flyers on Feb. 18, he played 30 minutes and 17 seconds.
Coach David Quinn relies on Fox to play the tough minutes against opponents’ best players and absorb a lot of defensive zone starts. Yet among New York defensemen who have played 110 minutes or more at 5-on-5, Fox has the best expected goals percentage and is on the positive side of the ledger in high-danger chances.
Also, with Jacob Trouba injured for the next month-plus, Fox will need to play the role of playmaker and shutdown defenseman.
The argument for the Rangers winning Wednesday is two-pronged. First, goaltender Igor Shesterkin could absolutely steal this game.
How good has Shesterkin been this season? As it now stands, he is neck and neck with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck in Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx). Of all goaltenders who have played 10 or more games, he ranks seventh in the metric.
Second, regression to the mean is coming for the Flyers’ shooting percentage. It is just a matter of when.
The Flyers lead the NHL in shooting percentage by 2.41%. The chasm between them and the second-place team in this metric, the Toronto Maple Leafs, is larger than the difference between the Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are 15th.
At some point, the Flyers are not going to see one out of every seven shots go flying into the net.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
For Flyers coach Alain Vigneault, there should be no mystery as to how New York is planning to win this game.
The Rangers are going to want to slow the game down, throw everything on net against goaltender Brian Elliott and hope they can get some puck luck. New York will have their defensemen jamming the Flyers’ outlets on breakouts, hoping to create turnovers and more offensive zone time.
For all intents and purposes, Philadelphia is wholly rush-centric. The Flyers’ forecheck is ineffective, so they will look to carry the puck in at every opportunity. Since this is no secret, they would be wise to try to isolate their forwards in space if possible. Having forwards leak out of the zone or use flip passes to get behind the Rangers defensemen would be a way to push the Rangers’ defensemen back and produce counterattacks.
When the Flyers make too many passes, things get sloppy and bad decisions are made. What Philadelphia doesn’t want is a spate of failed breakouts that result in mismatches down low and cause them to chase the puck around their own end. Chipping the puck past a Rangers defenseman can be an area pass or a way to reset defensively.
The Flyers could be missing Claude Giroux, Travis Konency, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom and Jakub Voracek on Wednesday night, yet they would still have enough scoring in the lineup. That is because, in a surprising development, Joel Farabee and James van Riemsdyk have been the two most important Philadelphia forwards this season.
Reductive as it may be, the Rangers’ top-six forward scoring woes are the biggest reason to pick against them. Mika Zibanejad’s struggles have been well documented, but he has not been the sole reason New York cannot score.
Forward Chris Kreider has six points and has one of the worst expected goals and high-danger chances metrics on the Rangers. Pavel Buchnevich has four goals and slightly better analytics than Kreider. The truth is there are limitations to grinding out goals.
New York forward Colin Blackwell has been a nice story, but his prominence when the Rangers succeed in recent games is indicative of how starved this team is for offense. If the Flyers can score three or more goals, the Rangers are toast.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The Flyers are 5-2-2 at home this season. Having the last change in this game will matter, as they can dictate what matchups they like. Additionally, the Rangers’ lack of scoring is too big an obstacle to overcome.
At -115 on BetMGM, Philadelphia is the move. Prepare yourself for a frustrating, nerve-wracking, but ultimately enjoyable game.
Pick: Flyers -115