NHL’s Metropolitan Division Odds and Analysis: Rangers Rule in Danger?


Jan 2, 2024

There’s no discounting the importance of scheduling in today’s NHL. Three teams from every division get an automatic berth into the postseason, with the rest vying for one of the two remaining wild card berths. 

The intensity always gets ratcheted up the closer we get to the postseason, but Metropolitan Division teams will face added pressure earlier than anticipated. That’s because only six points separate the second-place Carolina Hurricanes from the seventh-place Pittsburgh Penguins.

Although the New York Rangers sit atop the division, they can’t rest on their laurels as we race toward the playoffs. 

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No Room for Error

Nobody can afford to take their foot off the pedal over the next few months. The Rangers are seemingly in the best spot, sitting 13 points clear of the Penguins and seven points up on the Hurricanes. However, New York has only played eight divisional matchups through the season’s first three months. That means they will face added pressure as the teams beneath them in the standings try to erode the Rangers’ lead. 

Overvalued Teams

For those reasons and more, the Rangers are one of the most overvalued teams in the division. The Broadway Blueshirts sit in the bottom half of the league in expected goals-for rating despite having a relatively uncontested schedule to open the season. 

Likewise, the Washington Capitals have an impending date with regression early in 2024. The Caps have the seventh-worst expected goals-for rating in the league while playing one of the easiest schedules. Their success is predicated on wins within the division, an unsustainable standing that will collapse underneath them.

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Undervalued Teams

Several teams are poised for a run up the standings. The Hurricanes, Penguins, and New Jersey Devils are included in that group. 

New Jersey hasn’t reached the lofty heights it reached last season, but they have made significant strides over their recent schedule. The Devils went 8-5-1 in December, tied for the second-most wins in the NHL. More importantly, they have analytics working in their favor, with their actual goals-for rating (46.8%) falling nearly seven points below expected (53.8%).

The Devils aren’t the only progression candidates, though. The Canes have made headway over the past few months, going 14-9-4 since the start of November. Still, they are well below expected metrics, implying they should be recipients of puck luck over the final few months of the season. 

Finally, the Penguins have used a 6-1-1 run to close the gap in the division. With games in hand over most of the teams ahead of them, Pittsburgh could get even closer over the coming weeks as schedules balance out ahead of the All-Star break.

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Betting Market

There are many profitable in-roads to the Metropolitan Division betting. The Rangers’ chances of winning the division aren’t as pronounced as the -250 price at FanDuel implies. The Hurricanes are the next closest team with a tempting +600 price to win the division.

Beyond them, the Devils (+1200), New York Islanders (+2000), Penguins (+2000), and Philadelphia Flyers (+2900) all have attractive prices. 

Check out SportsGrid’s NHL game picks and NHL Props Picks all Season Long.

Final thoughts

Implicit in all of this is the bettor-friendly advantage of hedging as we approach the end of the season.

With 18 divisional games remaining, a bettor could take a stance on the Rangers at -250, betting against them in divisional matchups to potentially get ahead. Conversely, and potentially more profitably, taking out a long position on the Penguins and then backing their opponents in Metropolitan Division contests could yield plus-money over the coming weeks and months. 

Whatever strategy you employ, expect the Metropolitan Division to get messier before we have any clarity on which teams will punch their tickets to the postseason.

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Thumbnail photo via Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

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