This much we know: the Stanley Cup Finals begin on Wednesday and will open in the New York area. The question is, will the Western Conference Champion Los Angeles Kings be playing on the ice in Manhattan or Newark?
That question could be answered on Friday night.
The New Jersey Devils can return to the finals for the first time since winning the franchise’s third title in 2003 with a victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the visiting New York Rangers.
If the Blueshirts prevail, Game 7 of this highly entertaining series will be Sunday back at Madison Square Garden.
Rangers at Devils Betting Story Lines
New Jersey pulled the Game 5 upset 5-3 on Wednesday night and the hero had to be Stephen Gionta, who spent most of this season in the AHL.The 28-year-old played one regular-season game this season and only 13 in his career.
But “Baby Gio,” who has played in every postseason game, scored in the first three minutes of Game 5 to give New Jersey the early lead, and later assisted on Ryan Carter's winning goal with 4:24 left after the Devils had blown a 3-0 lead.
Both Gionta and Carter are on the Devils’ fourth line, which is usually made up of grinders and scrappers. Along with Steve Bernier, the trio combined for 15 points during the season, but have totaled 16 in these playoffs. They are plus-13 and have scored on 15.7 percent of their shots.
By comparison, Devils star Zach Parise has scored on 10.4 percent of his attempts in this postseason.
By the way, Game 5 was played on the 18-year anniversary of Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, in which the Devils won 4-1, took a 3-2 series lead and prompted the famous Mark Messier guarantee the following day. We all know what happened next.
The goat status from Wednesday has to go to Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed three goals on the first five shots he faced as New Jersey jumped ahead 3-0 less than 10 minutes into the game.
It marked the first time in 19 playoff games that the Hart, Vezina and potential Conn Smythe candidate had been burned for more than three goals. It was New York’s seventh-straight loss in the playoffs when presented an opportunity to take a two-game series advantage.
In reality, after New Jersey built a 3-0 lead, the Rangers actually outplayed the Devils. New York dominated the puck possession, using its forecheck to physically wear on the opponent and were usually in the New Jersey zone. For most of the series, it has been the other way around.
The Blueshirts ended up outshooting the Devils 28-17. Also on the bright side, struggling Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik both found the net, with Gaborik’s early third-period goal tying the game on a rare misplay by Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
The fact that the Rangers reached three goals was also a positive. They are averaging only 2.11 goals per game in the playoffs, by far the fewest of the four teams that reached the conference finals.
They have scored three or more goals in only seven of their 19 games this spring. By comparison, the Devils have scored three or more goals in 13 of their 17 games and are averaging 2.69 per game.
In the team's history, the Devils have won 11 series and lost five when taking a 3-2 series lead. Seven times New Jersey won in Game 6 and four times in Game 7.
New York was down 3-2 in the first round, but then went to Ottawa and won 3-2 before taking Game 7 back at home.
Rangers at Devils Betting Odds and Key Trends
New Jersey opened as a -125 favorite with the total at 4.5. The Devils are 5-2 at home in these playoffs, all as a favorite. The ‘over’ has hit in three of those games, but not in this series. The Rangers are 4-4 on the road in the playoffs. The over hasn’t hit once.
New York is 1-6 in its past seven games when its opponent scored five or more goals in the previous game. The Blueshirts are 3-9 in their past 12 playoff games as a dog.
The Devils are 6-1 in their past seven after scoring five or more goals in their previous game. The over hasn’t hit in the Rangers’ past seven games after allowing at least five goals in their previous game. The over has hit only once in the past eight Rangers-Devils meetings in New Jersey.
NHL Picks: Rangers at Devils Betting Predictions
Since the 2004 NHL lockout, the Devils are 4-2 in potential series-clinching games, but none of their wins have come at home. New York is 3-0 in elimination games so far in these playoffs.
Besides, this series deserves a seventh game and I think Lundqvist bounces back from two bad outings with a very good one and steals Game 6.
He is 6-0 in the games that the Rangers have scored three or more goals in these playoffs, but 0-6 when he allows three goals.
Take the Rangers and the under.