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Devils vs. Rangers NHL Odds & Pick: Is There Value With Underdog New Jersey on Tuesday? (Feb. 16)

Devils vs. Rangers NHL Odds & Pick: Is There Value With Underdog New Jersey on Tuesday? (Feb. 16) article feature image

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood.

  • The New Jersey Devils return to action Tuesday for the first time since Jan. 31 when they take on the New York Rangers.
  • Will they pull off the upset against the struggling Rangers?
  • Michael Leboff breaks down this intriguing East Division showdown below.

Devils vs. Rangers Odds

Devils Odds +128
Rangers Odds -148
Over/Under 6
Time Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET and via DraftKings

After a COVID-19 outbreak forced nearly 20 players into protocol, the New Jersey Devils are set to play their first game since Jan. 31 on Tuesday night against the New York Rangers.

The Devils, who carried a 4-3-2 record into their shutdown, are currently plus-128 underdogs against the struggling Rangers. Is that number good enough to take a chance on a team that hasn’t played in more than two weeks?

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New Jersey Devils

Prior to their outbreak, the Devils played pretty well relative to their expectations. A 4-3-2 record with a minus-3 goal differential isn’t awe-inspiring, but it’s nothing to scoff at for a team that came in as the East Division’s biggest longshot.

What’s more impressive is the Devils were able to take three points from two games against the first-place Boston Bruins. They also went 1-1 against the New York Islanders and beat the Rangers in their only meeting this season.

New Jersey has achieved modest success by doing a couple of things pretty well. First of all, it has  kept the puck out of the net. The franchise leads the NHL with a .946 save percentage at 5-on-5, and their 1.53 goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 is the second-best mark behind Tampa Bay.

Even though Mackenzie Blackwood looks like he’s on his way to becoming one of the NHL’s better starting goaltenders, it’s hard to imagine those numbers won’t regress over time, especially since the Devils are allowing the sixth-most expected goals against per 60 minutes in the NHL so far.

Based on expected goals, the Devils should be allowing just about 2.5 goals per 60 minutes, so it’s pretty fair to expect their defensive numbers to tumble as the season goes on.

Fortunately, New Jersey’s offensive metrics have been enough that it should still be competitive even when it starts allowing more goals. The Devils are 13th overall with 2.52 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, but they’re third with a 2.64 xGF/60, so they might be able to score enough to provide some cover for their defensive flaws.

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New York Rangers

While the Devils came into 2021 with no expectations, there was considerable hype surrounding the Rangers, thanks to a strong second-half performance in their 2019/20 campaign.

New York also had an offseason that saw it land No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, who was set to join a forward corps that already boasted Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan Strome.

With a top six like that, the Rangers should have no problem filling the stat-sheet. The question was whether or not they would play good enough defense to make their offensive numbers stick. Surprisingly, New York has improved its defensive numbers, but the goals have dried up.

New York is 28th in the NHL with 1.89 goals per 60 minutes, which is a far cry from the 2.73 GF/60 it posted last season. And it isn’t just poor puck luck that’s ailing the Rangers.

Sure, the Rangers should see their 6.28% shooting percentage (5-on-5) tick up, but they’re is not creating enough scoring chances to dig themselves out of the rut. For a team whose strength is supposed to be a prolific offense, ranking dead-middle with a 2.29 xGF/60 won’t be enough to cover up for a lack of depth and a patchwork defense.

Rangers vs. Devils Pick

There are some pretty noteworthy lineup decisions that need to be confirmed for this matchup. The Devils still have four players, most notably Nico Hischier and Nikita Gusev, in protocol as of this morning, while Panarin and K’Andre Miller are likely out for the Rangers.

In other words, it might be in your best interest to wait for some roster clarity before making a bet in this one.

There’s still plenty of time for the Rangers to find their game, but it’s pretty hard to find a reason to lay this kind of juice with a team that has been pedestrian at best through its first 13 games of the season. It’s also not ideal to back a team off a 16-day hiatus, but I’m closer to a play on the Devils at this number than I am on the Rangers.

The top of New York’s roster is much more dangerous than New Jersey’s group. Yet, when you look beyond the Blueshirts’ edge in the star-power department, there really isn’t much that separates these two teams. The goaltending is pretty much a wash, neither defense is all that impressive and depth isn’t really a strength for either side.

If Panarin and Miller are out, the Devils hold some value down to +120 odds.

Pick: Devils +120 or better

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