The Empire Slate: Good Value On Rangers To Win Division Title

Also: MLB props, NFL draft, and Nets-Celtics stabilization
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“The Empire Slate” is a weekly look at betting angles and trends involving New York sports.

The Rangers lost a crucial game to the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night, but they have generally played great hockey of late, having won four of their last five games, including a bounce-back 4-0 shutout of the Flyers Wednesday night.

With seven games left before the playoffs, the Rangers trail Carolina by just two points to win the Metropolitan Division. Seems like they’re very much in play for their first division title in seven years, huh? Well, New York’s mobile sportsbooks don’t seem to think so.

The Rangers are as high as +700 (at FanDuel) to win the Metropolitan, with the Hurricanes listed at -1050 at the same book. Other lines available in New York are similar, though DraftKings has it a little tighter, with the Rangers at +500 and Carolina at -800.

Why are the books so pessimistic about the Rangers’ chances of passing Carolina? Probably has something to do with the schedule, which gives the Hurricanes an edge.

Carolina’s remaining slate is among the cushiest in the NHL, with just three remaining games against teams above .500. Its other opponents — Detroit, Arizona and New Jersey (twice) — are among the NHL’s bottom feeders. As for the Rangers, after Friday’s game vs. the Red Wings, they play four straight contenders, culminating with their April 26 rematch with Carolina.

Maybe it’s worth buying a ticket on the Rangers in the hope they survive the gauntlet and the Carolina game is a winner-take-all kind of affair, but realize the books are offering these prices for a reason.

Stanley Cup odds

The Rangers have won four NHL championships, most recently in 1993-94. What are the odds they add their fifth this summer? The books seem to be taking them as a serious threat after a couple of additions they made before the trade deadline.

The Rangers, who would play the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one if the season ended today, are the consensus No. 7 choice to win the Stanley Cup behind the Avalanche, Panthers, Flames, Hurricanes, Lightning, and Maple Leafs. The juiciest odds on the Rangers hoisting the Stanley Cup are +1800, offered at Caesars and BetMGM, while the shortest, +1600, are at DraftKings.

Tracking early MLB props

In the interest of accountability as well as fun, NY Online Gambling will be tracking plays it recommends throughout the year. Let’s take a way-too-early look at two prop bets we looked at on the eve of Opening Day:

Aaron Judge over 36.5 home runs: We argued that Judge should “sail by this number like one of his moon shots,” assuming he stays healthy, and noted he had already reached 52 and 39 home runs in previous seasons. So far, Anthony Rizzo has been the Yankees’ main power source, but Judge followed Rizzo’s third home run with his first of the season Wednesday night (the Yankees’ sixth game). Judge is on pace for 27 home runs, but they come in bunches. We’re not worried.

Chris Bassitt under 170.5 strikeouts: We lauded the acquisition of the sinkerballer, but speculated he was too old, at 33, to suddenly bloom into a strikeout pitcher. Bassitt’s first start was scintillating, as he struck out eight Washington Nationals while allowing just three hits in his first start with the Mets. Bassitt is scheduled to make his second start Friday night in Queens against the Diamondbacks. Again, we’re not worried. The Nats have a really bad lineup, with a 25.2% strikeout rate that ranks in the bottom third of MLB. Let’s see what his strikeout numbers start looking like against some decent lineups.

NY teams pivotal in NFL Draft

Mel Kiper Jr. recently changed his view of who the Jets will take with the No. 4 selection in the April 28 NFL Draft from USC receiver Drake London to Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. If Kiper is right, it offers an easy opportunity to cash a ticket, as Thibodeaux’s draft over/under is being offered at 5.5 at all the New York books.

Incidentally, Kiper also switched his Giants pick, at No. 5, from one offensive tackle, Alabama’s Evan Neal, to another, N.C. State’s Ikem Ekwonu. The books don’t think either of those guys will make it to the Giants, however, as their draft position over/unders are each 3.5 at all NY books.

This draft is considered weak on quarterbacks, but deep in offensive linemen, and that’s reflected in the odds. Over the last 10 years, 60 offensive linemen have been selected in the first round for an average of six (waits for applause over excellent math skills to die down). This year, the books have set the over/under at 7.5 offensive linemen selected in the first round.

Kiper’s latest also has the Bills grabbing Michigan DB Daxton Hill with the No. 25 pick.

Nets odds stabilize

On Wednesday, we noted the rather large early line move on the Nets’ playoff series with the Boston Celtics that tips off Sunday. The line at DraftKings opened with the Nets -145, but had moved to +130 by Wednesday morning and stayed right there. FanDuel, similarly, seems to have found an equilibrium with the Nets at +120.

Photo: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY

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