NHL betting: Are the New York Rangers a Cup contender?

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We're approaching the midway point of the NHL season and one of the league's biggest surprises this season has been the New York Rangers. The young team with a new coach entered the season with heightened expectations, but those expectations were mostly for the team to be competitive and compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They've far surpassed those expectations, but are they a good bet to win the Stanley Cup?

Are the Rangers legitimate Cup contenders?

Through 38 games, the Rangers have posted a 24-10-4 record. Their 52 points are the most in the Metropolitan division, third most in the Eastern conference and third most in the entire league. New York has played most games than most teams, but there's no denying they Rangers have been one of the league's best teams to this point.

Despite their record, the Rangers currently sit at 22-to-1 to win the Stanley Cup. Is there a reason the market seems a bit bearish on the Rangers?

The advanced analytics aren't big proponents of the Rangers. New York ranks fourth from the bottom in expected goal rate at 5-on-5. Basically, based on the quality and quantity of chances the Rangers generate and allow, they would be expected to have the fourth-worst goal differential in the league.

They are fifth worst in the league in terms of expected goals scored, which means they aren't generating much offense at 5-on-5. They are also bottom ten in expected goals against, meaning they're allowing their fair share of high-quality chances.

There are two main reasons the Rangers are over-performing their metrics.

Their special teams are tremendous. The Rangers have a top-10 powerplay and a top-three penalty kill. Special teams play isn't accounted for in the above metrics, but it's certainly a big part of the game.

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 13: Igor Shesterkin #31 and Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers celebrate the win against the San Jose Sharks in a regular season game at SAP Center on January 13, 2022 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Amanda Cain/NHLI)
Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin is the main reason the Rangers are near the top of the NHL. (Amanda Cain/NHLI)

More importantly, Igor Shesterkin might be the best goalie in the league. He has posted a +19.19 goals saved above expectation through 22 games. He's basically single-handedly responsible for preventing an extra goal per game over an average goalie.

While the Rangers might not be my top bet to win the Cup, a top-level goaltender could give them value at their current price of 22-to-1 to win the Cup. However, I'd rather back the Rangers through the awards futures market.

Is Igor Shesterkin going to win the Vezina?

Igor Shesterkin currently has the second-best odds of winning the Vezina, but that's not going to prevent me from backing the young Rangers goaltender.

Shesterkin currently sits at +450 to win the award. Only Jack Campbell of the Leafs at +350 has better odds.

Campbell has had a tremendous season for the Leafs, but the Leafs had monster expectations to begin the year. He also has to share the spotlight with names like Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner.

When you look at the Rangers, nobody expected them to be here. The underlying metrics suggest they actually aren't very good. Shesterkin's numbers suggest that he's the main reason the Rangers are where they are. If the season ended right now, I'd have a hard time going with anyone except Shesterkin.

Can Adam Fox repeat as the Norris winner?

Adam Fox won the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman in 2021. He currently sits at +450 to repeat as the winner of the award. These are the second-best odds of any defensemen, behind only Cale Makar of the Avalanche, who sits at +200.

It's going to be hard for anyone to beat Makar. Over a full 82-game season, Makar would be on pace for over 40 goals and nearly 100 points. Fox is on a nearly point-per-game pace, but he's not quite at Makar's level.

Is Gerard Gallant a coach of the year candidate?

Gerard Gallant is in his first year behind the bench for the Rangers. He took over for David Quinn over the summer and Gallant's first season has gone about as well as one could have expected.

The Rangers are performing well over expectations and are one of the best teams in the league currently. As a first year coach, it's hard to ignore a coach taking a team from non-playoff team to top of the league.

Gallant sits at 12-to-1 to win the Jack Adams award. Only Rod Brind'amour of Carolina and John Hynes of Nashville have better odds.

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