Both the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils now know who they can expect to play if they make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, set to begin on May 30th, and they each are well aware that they will have home-ice advantage in the battle for the Cup. The only problem is that the two teams as of yet have been unable to figure out which team is the better in the Eastern Conference Finals, with victories going back and forth between the two squads since Game 1. As the Rangers get set to host the Devils for Game 5 tonight at Madison Square Garden with face-off set for 8:00 PM ET, they’ll be focused and intent on changing the pattern in this series to their favor, with the hopes of pushing the series to the brink before heading back over the NY/NJ state line to Newark. For the Devils on the other hand, a bounce-back win in Game 5 could give them an opportunity to close out the series at home in front of their own fans, and give them supreme bragging rights in a heated rivalry where there has been no love whatsoever between the players, coaches, or the fans. No matter what your team affiliation might be, for fans of NHL hockey in general this showdown tonight certainly makes for must-watch sports entertainment, and a great opportunity for online sports betting at one of the top reviewed sportsbooks found right here at CR.
The 7-game series between these two teams boiled over in Game 4 on Monday night, as the Devils grabbed a 4-1 win at home to even the series before heading back to New York City. Player fights broke out, coaches screamed at one another from their respective benches. The Rangers finally lost their cool after going down 3-0 in the game during the third period, and started getting chippy wherever they could. Setting an ugly game to the back of their minds, getting back into focused, defensive-minded play will be critical for the New York Rangers, who were outshot, out-hustled, and looked out of sorts, never playing up to the same level of intensity that the Devils reached through 3 solid periods of play. For Game 5, it’s down to two leaders to get the Rangers back into shape; first with Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes needing to settle back into his usual self (already having accumulated 2 shut-outs in the 2 Rangers wins for the series), and captain Ryan Callahan must set the tone for a fast-paced, disciplined game of hockey on home ice. It’s evident that as this series becomes more heated between players and coaches, the team that can manage their emotions better and stick to the game plan will have a serious edge. With New Jersey knowing full-well that the New York Rangers have had their cages rattled, the Rangers can ill afford to be spending more minutes in the penalty box, or see guys like Brandon Prust (suspended for Game 4, back tonight) missing from action because of thoughtless challenges on Devils players.
New Jersey on the other hand has to like its chances heading into Game 5 tonight, as with a win this evening they can push back the series to home ice for a chance to close it down and earn a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2003. It’s evident that from post-game interviews after Game 4, that the Devils mindset is in the right place as they prepare to head into hostile territory at MSG this evening. Key to the Devils game once again tonight will be captain Zach Parise (two goals in Game 4) and playoff points leader Ilya Kovalchuk, who have provided the brunt of the scoring opportunities and points production for the Devils. Travis Zajac, who got in on the scoring in Game 4, must generate plenty of shots on net as well, especially early in the game. Getting the game off to a strong start is essential for the Devils, who when getting the early lead have been able to shore up their defense and prevent the Rangers from getting back into contests. Maintaining a high level of discipline has to be key for New Jersey as well, who have generally stuck with composed, reasoned play throughout this year’s playoff run.
For New York, finding a way to get their top offensive line, including Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, back into the scoring action would be a sure-fire way to build some confidence and inspire the rest of the Rangers to up their game. Both Richards and Gaborik have been nearly non-existent in this playoff series, with Gaborik sitting on no points despite leading the team in goals during the regular season, and Richards, who while generating an assist in three straight games, has yet to find the back of the net in this series. Center big man Brian Boyle has also been notably absent from the scoring lines, producing just 2 assists and no goals in this series. Without getting some kind of scoring generated by these three players, New York is forced to rely on its second and third lines to come up with all the points production, which simply can’t be the case if they expect to hang with a confident Devils team. One or two of these top liners must come through with a big game on home ice tonight, or the Rangers will be exactly where they don’t wish to be, down 3-2 in the series as it heads back to Jersey.
Betting Lines for the New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils at Intertops Sportsbook.
Getting home ice this evening, the New York Rangers stand as the favorites to win on the money line, getting -130 odds straight up while the visiting New Jersey Devils come in as +110 underdogs. As the series has traded games back and forth, expectations should be set to the Rangers finding a way to bounce back on home ice, in what is certainly a crucial game for them.
Against the spread, the bookmakers expect this game to return to a tight showdown, with 1.5 goals given to New York to cover (+235 odds), and a 1.5 goal cushion given to New Jersey pickers at -275 odds. With New York’s goalie Henrik Lundqvist very consistent bouncing back from losing efforts, and having produced two shutouts, each with a 3-goal margin of victory, there could be a good option to take New York to cover, banking on the trend of the series to flip-flop wins between teams, and the ability of the Rangers to dominate once again after a loss.
For the total points line, the over/under again sits at 4.5 goals, as has been common in this series thus far. With both teams knowing full well that discipline is a key factor tonight, and that defense is critical first and foremost, we’re looking for the goals total to stay under the line this evening, banking on a return to form for the Rangers in their shot-blocking prowess, as well as Lundqvist’s desire to play back up to his usual elite level.