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Eastern Conference Final betting: Value in backing Rangers to steal Game 4

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Rangers did it again Sunday.

New York improved to 4-0 in overtime during this postseason thanks to goals by Barclay Goodrow and Alex Wennberg, who are both bottom-six forwards.

The Rangers haven't been the better team in this series by even-strength metrics - expected goals share and high-danger chances. Of course, they rarely are, and this is causing consternation among the bettor community as we look ahead to Game 4.

Game 4: Rangers (+145) @ Panthers (-170)

The theory among sharp hockey bettors is that creating more chances and dominating play at even strength (which, in turn, should generate more power plays) gives a team a better chance to win. It's a sensible concept, except the Rangers do two things that fly in the face of that logic.

The Rangers feature a group of dangerous scorers - Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Alexis Lafreniere, and Vincent Trocheck - who registered 46.5% of the team's shots on goal in the regular season and 61% in the playoffs. Those players contributed to an above-average 15% scoring rate on even-strength high-danger chances (HDC) plus power-play opportunities - a metric we call SNIPES.

The Rangers also have Igor Shesterkin, who has saved New York 11.5 goals above expected this postseason after closing the season with a 16.7 GSAx following the All-Star break.

Those elements can make up the difference against a team with an advantage in xG%. It helped New York that Sergei Bobrovsky allowed over three goals more than expected in Game 3, but heading into Game 2, we felt like backing Shesterkin to be the better goaltender was worth it at an underdog price.

The market hasn't changed its opinion, keeping the respective moneylines the same as before Game 3, likely due to the Panthers' 69.2% xG share and a 12-6 HDC advantage at even strength. However, the Rangers are likely to shrink that disparity. We'll stick with the underdog in a series where all three games so far could have gone either way.

Best bet: Rangers moneyline (+145)

Mika Zibanejad: Under 2.5 shots

Zibanejad's shot volume has fallen through the floor of late. He recorded two or fewer shots in eight of the past 10 games, including two of three in this series. He managed to go over this line in Game 3 but did so by the skin of his teeth, mustering up only three shot attempts. Simply put, he found a way to hit the target in each contest, but that can't be relied upon.

Zibanejad's been completely ineffective at five-on-five. He has only three shots on goal in that game state through three games in this series. The Rangers have also been outshot 35-10 with Zibanejad on the ice at full strength and spend most of his shifts on their heels in the defensive zone.

Although that hasn't hurt the Rangers in terms of wins and losses, it has hurt Zibanejad's volume and should continue to do so.

Penalties tend to be called less frequently as a series progresses, and Zibanejad does a lot of his damage as a shooter on the man advantage. That's not a recipe for success.

Look for the Panthers to keep Zibanejad in check as a shooter in Game 4.

Odds: -140 (playable to -160)

Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.

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