Just over a week ago it looked like the New York Rangers were well on their way to a sweep of the New Jersey Devils.
The Blueshirts outscored the Devils, 10-2, in the first two games of the best-of-7 and took a 2-0 series lead back to Madison Square Garden.
At the time the narrative surrounding New Jersey was that its inexperience was showing and the ‘been there before’ Rangers were taking them to school.
It was hard to argue against that logic.
But the series shifted in Game 3 when Lindy Ruff made the decision to start rookie netminder Akira Schmid in goal over Vitek Vanecek.
It wasn’t fair to pin New Jersey’s two losses on Vanecek, but the margins are so thin when you’re going up against Igor Shesterkin, so Ruff rolled the dice.
It’s paid off.
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Not only has Schmid won his first three playoff starts, but the native of Bern, Switzerland has done it in style. Schmid has allowed two goals total and is coming off a shutout in Game 5.
Schmid and the Devils have a chance to eliminate their cross-river rivals with a win at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
If you want evidence of just how much the momentum seems to have swung in this series, just look at the odds for Game 6.
After the Rangers stormed the Devils in the first two games of this best-of-7, they came home as -155 favorites in Game 3.
The Blueshirts would lose that contest, 2-1, in overtime thanks to a terrific showing from Schmid, but the market was undeterred.
New York closed as a -165 favorite for Game 4.
That game would also go New Jersey’s way, sending the series back to Newark knotted at two games apiece.
The Devils carried their new-found mojo into Game 5 and dominated the Rangers from start to finish.
Now, with their backs against the wall, the Rangers are a -125 favorite (at the time of writing) at home in Game 6.
In other words, what we’ve seen from these two teams over the last three games has caused the market to shift 40 cents.
Right away, that should tell you that you’d be paying a premium on the Devils if you were to bet them on Saturday night.
Sure, there’s plenty of reasons to believe that New Jersey can go back to Madison Square Garden and end the series, but in betting everything comes down to price and when you see a 40-cent difference in the same matchup, with the same two rosters, at the same venue, you know there’s a momentum tax built into the price.
And if you’re thinking about going the other way and buying low on the Rangers at home, you may as well just bet them to win the series.
New York is +250 to advance to Round 2, so if you’re going to bet the -125 in Game 6, why not take on the series price and hope that you’re holding that ticket for a Game 7 back in Newark on Monday?
As for betting angles in Game 6 that have value, I’ll go back to the well on this contest to go beyond 60 minutes.
The Devils have done a great job of limiting mistakes and giving the Rangers opportunities on the counterattack since Game 2 and that’s proven stifling for the Blueshirts.
Meanwhile, Igor Shesterkin is continuing to stand on his head and should get more help than he had in Game 5.
It’s hard to imagine the Rangers won’t adjust their defensive process for Saturday night and tighten up.
Space on the ice and scoring chances may be at a premium on Saturday night and that should give this game a good chance to get to overtime.
60-minute draw (+310, FanDuel)