NHL Betting Guide: Monday 5/3/21

Mika Zibanejad has been held pointless in his last two games, after recording seven points in his previous four games. Can he help the Rangers get back in the win column against the Capitals tonight?

There is a clear divide forming between playoff and non-playoff teams as we head into the final two weeks of the NHL season. With the exception of the Central Division, playoff teams sit comfortably ahead of the outsiders looking in and only have to tread water to get into the postseason. We're digging into a couple of early games featuring home underdogs from tonight's absurd 14-game schedule.

Here are the plays from our daily projections!

New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals

Rangers moneyline (+100): 3-Star Rating Out of 5
Rangers +1.5 (-265): 4-Star Rating Out of 5

The New York Rangers are one of the teams holding out hope for a playoff spot in the East Division. But with only four games remaining and sitting eight points out of the final playoff spot, it's just a formality before their season comes to an end. We're expecting an outstanding effort from the Rangers as they cling to the final hopes of sneaking into the playoffs.

The Rangers have used a recent stretch of home games to get their home metrics above 50.0%. New York has outplayed four of their last six opponents on home ice, putting up a cumulative 52.9% expected goals-for percentage. Over those six games, the Rangers have scored three or more goals in all but two of the games, with 8 of their 21 goals coming from high-danger areas.

Goals from high-danger areas is exactly what the Washington Capitals have been struggling with recently. The Caps have allowed seven high-danger goals over their last two games, and 13 over their last six games. It's been a season-long struggle, as Capitals goalies have combined for the fourth-wost high-danger save percentage this season, stopping only 78.7% of high-danger shots this season.

Washington has picked a bad time of year to start struggling with consistency. The Capitals have been outplayed in four of their last eight games, with goaltending again being an issue. Washington goalies have either stopped 100% of shots faced or less than 88.5% of shots in all eight games. That's a recipe for disaster against a Rangers squad with the fourth-best shooting percentage on home ice.

According to our projections, the Rangers have a 62.8% chance of winning tonight. Compared to their +100 moneyline price, there's a substantive advantage in backing the Blueshirts to win, rated as a three-star play. That advantage is also reflected in taking the Rangers on the puckline, which is rated as a four-star play.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Nashville Predators

Blue Jackets moneyline (+162): 2-Star Rating Out of 5
Blue Jackets +1.5 (-176): 3-Star Rating Out of 5

The Columbus Blue Jackets deserved a better outcome against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. The Jackets outplayed the Canes across all strengths by posting a 58.6% expected goals-for percentage. It was a momentum-building effort that should help them get past the Nashville Predators on Monday night.

Columbus is relying on improved offensive efforts over their last three games, and that's helped them be more competitive. Over that span, the Jackets are averaging 31.0 scoring chances and 13.3 high-danger chances. That hasn't resulted in increased output, as they have scored just four goals across the three games, but we're expecting a reversal of fortunes against a Preds team that is struggling defensively.

The Predators have allowed 41 or more scoring chances and 16 or more high-danger chances in two of their last three. Those two games are part of a six-game stretch in which opponents attempted 30 or more shots against the Predators. Nashville limited the Dallas Stars to 28 shots the last time out, which was the lowest total since April 13. The unsustainable part of the Predators' success comes in the form of a 92.9% save percentage, despite the onslaught against them. Preds goalies can't continue at that pace.

Nashville ranks in the bottom third of the league in expected goals-for percentage on the road, checking in at 21st with a percentage of 46.7%. They have negative relative metrics across the board but have still managed a 12-12-2 record as the visitors.

The Preds are at risk of loosening their tenuous grip on the final playoff spot in the Central Division tonight. Based on our projections, the Blue Jackets' chances (47.2%) are better than their implied probability (38.2%) implies. As such, taking them to win is a two-star play and taking them to cover +1.5 is a three-star play.