Rangers tabbed as underdogs once again despite impressive playoff run

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers enter the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers as the betting underdogs once again, despite finishing atop the League in the regular season, and advancing through the first two rounds of the playoffs with an 8-2 record.

Per DraftKings, the Rangers come into the series at +130, while the Panthers are favored at -150. New York finished 1-2-0 against Florida this season, with their lone win coming in a shootout. That being said, the Rangers finished four points ahead of Florida in the overall standings, and have largely dominated through two rounds of playoff hockey, sweeping the Washington Capitals, and putting away the Carolina Hurricanes in six games.

It is not the first time the Rangers have been tabbed as underdogs. Entering the second round, the Hurricanes were also the favorite. Despite the Rangers advancing, odds makers are still having a hard time buying in to their playoff run.

Not only are the Rangers the underdog in the series, but they are also the biggest underdog of the four remaining teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers are given +400 odds to win the Stanley Cup, while the Edmonton Oilers are at +280, the Dallas Stars at +260, and the Florida Panthers at +215 have the best odds of winning it all.

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Rangers viewed as underdogs again by oddsmakers

NHL: Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

There are a few reasons that could explain why Florida is so heavily favored in the series. One being their goal differential in the regular season. Florida finished with a +67 goal differential, the best in the NHL; the Rangers were seventh at +52. The Panthers are a very deep team with offensive weapons throughout their lineup. In the playoffs, Florida has a goal differential of +12, and New York is close by at +9.

Another argument can be made that Florida drew a tougher first-round opponent in the Tampa Bay Lightning, and still was able to take care of them in five games. Following that up with a six-game victory over the Boston Bruins was no easy task, but they managed to get that done as well.

There is a lot to like about the Rangers in this playoff run, however. Igor Shesterkin provides a distinct advantage over most teams in goaltending. He has guided the Rangers to their 8-2 record with a .923 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average. Sergei Bobrovsky has played well for the Panthers, but Shesterkin has the upper hand. Bobrovsky enters the third round with an 8-3 record along with a .902 save percentage an 2.37 GAA.

Special teams will also prove to be a difference-maker in this series. Coming into the Eastern Conference Final, New York has the advantage. Their power play is rolling at 31.4 percent in the playoffs; Florida’s power play has just a 22.0 percent success rate. The Rangers’ penalty kill has been incredible at 89.5 percent, and the Panthers are close behind at 86.1 percent.

The Rangers also continue to have the incredible ability to make comebacks when they need it most. After 28 comeback wins in the regular season, they did it once again in Game 6 against Carolina, rallying from a 3-1 deficit in the third period to win the game 5-3. It would not be surprising to see something like this happen again, whether in a specific game, or the series as a whole.

It is possible that the odds favor Florida so heavily because it was this same group that reached the Stanley Cup Final just last season. Or perhaps because on paper, or through analytics, Florida has the edge over New York. That being said, the Rangers have been putting together a special run, one that sometimes defies the story told through analytics and betting odds.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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