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NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Rangers vs. Blackhawks (December 18)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Rangers vs. Blackhawks (December 18) article feature image
Credit:

Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers.

  • The New York Rangers are in Chicago to face the Blackhawks Sunday.
  • The Rangers are significant favorites (moneyline: -255) but Nick Martin sees more value in a player prop for the visiting Blueshirts.
  • He breaks down the Rangers vs. Blackhawks odds and gives his pick and prediction below.

Rangers vs. Blackhawks Odds

Rangers Odds -255
Blackhawks Odds +205
Over/Under
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Rangers will head in to the United Center for a date with the lowly Chicago Blackhawks in the midst of a six game winning streak. New York‘s recent surge still has it sitting just three points up on Washington for the last playoff spot in a fierce Eastern Conference race.

The Rangers were on the road last night in Philadelphia, and now take on the NHL worst Chicago Blackhawks. Many might consider this a potential let down spot in turn, however a team with championship aspirations in the East simply can not pass up easy points too often.

Will the Rangers take advantage of the lowly Blackhawks often enough to hold value as massive favorites?

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New York Rangers

New York has stabilized from what was a surprising down swing in the early parts of the season, and is now seeing more balanced contributions offensively in a number of key areas.

Arguably the low point in New York’s season to this point came in a 5-2 loss on home ice to these very Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 3.

Since that point the Rangers have fired off six consecutive wins over some strong opposition, and offensively New York has trended up with 4.16 goals for per game over that run. Players such as Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, and Alexis Lafreniere coming to life certainly make it a more formidable challenge for opposition defenders to keep in check.

At 23.2% the Rangers power play ranks 12th in the league, but is an area in which we could still see better results moving forward with the personnel on hand.

Adam Fox is among the top handful of power play quarterbacks in the league, while Mika Zibanejad presents as an elite one-timer option on the left flank. Chris Kreider is stellar in front of goal, and Artemi Panarin is an elite playmaker on the other side, making up an extremely formidable unit.

Chicago’s penalty kill ranks 27th at just 72%, and the Rangers top unit is well situated to do damage in this matchup.


Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago was widely expected to be among the very worst sides in the league, and as of Saturday has now officially claimed last place in league standings with just 18 points in 29 games.

As you would expect the Blackhawks rarely possess the puck and has spent a ton of time playing in the defensive zone. Chicago has allowed 34.10 shots against per 60 over the last month of play, and an xGA/60 of 3.78.

Chicago’s roster does not have the talent to control play at a higher rate, and we should continue to see the Blackhawks allow a plethora of opposition chances night after night moving forward.

Rangers vs. Blackhawks Pick

Make no mistake about it, the Chicago Blackhawks are exactly as awful as advertised this season and likely will not find better form anytime soon.

Even in this back-to-back spot New York should likely carry far more of the play and will likely pepper Chicago with 35+ shots on goal.

If I were to pick a wager on a side in this contest it would be playing the Rangers puck-line at +104, but my favorite play is banking on a strong shot output from Mika Zibanejad.

If you are going to bet shot prop overs targeting matchups in which a particular team is likely to surpass its season average of shots on goal is the most important thing you can do. Oddsmakers do not adjust NHL lines significantly enough, if at all, for players shot on goal lines versus opponents which will allow significantly more shot attempts.

We can say with a high degree of certainty Chicago’s talent depleted roster will continue to allow a ton of shot attempts all season long, which makes me immediately start thinking about which Rangers skater is my favorite target.

Mika Zibanejad has managed far less shots on target than we are used to seeing over the last handful of outings, but for such a proven star who is not offering notably lesser form currently, looking towards a larger sample size is logical.

Zibanejad has gone over 3.5 in 18-of-32 contests this season, good for a 56.35% clip. Zibanejad is a shot first minded individual setting up in the natural one-timer spot on the Rangers top power play unit, and my belief is his 3.98 shot on goal per game average is going to hold moving forward this season and not an anomaly.

For a prop which has cashed 56.35% of the time with logical causation to continue at such a rate, +100 is a very reasonable price. Factor in the Chicago matchup and we certainly have the value to make a play on Zibanejad to record over 3.5 shots on goal.

Zibanejad also did manage four shots versus Chicago three weeks ago from seven attempts. With that matchup coming so close together and few factors having changed, that may hold a hair more relevancy than other times. In general, prior head-to-head history can simply be noise, particular looking at small samples, which still are forced to include a previous season.

Pick: Mika Zibanejad Over 3.5 Shots +100 (Play to -115)

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