NHL pick Thursday, Feb. 23

The Detroit Red Wings are surging. Winners of six of their last seven, the Wings have played themselves into the mix for a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Detroit is two points behind the Florida Panthers for the last playoff berth, but the Wings have four games in hand on the Cats and five on the Islanders, who are five points in front of Detroit.

Despite their hot form, the Red Wings are a +142 underdog at home against the New York Rangers.

Rangers vs. Red Wings prediction

7 p.m. ET. ESPN+

Things are quite interesting on Broadway right now.

The Rangers are 7-1-2 in their last 10, 16-5-4 in their previous 25, and made a big splash in the trade market by bringing in Vladimir Tarasenko. The hype machine should be buzzing.

Pius Suter #24 of the Detroit Red Wings collects a loose puck
Pius Suter #24 of the Detroit Red Wings collects a loose puck
NHLI via Getty Images

But there is some concern at Madison Square Garden about the dip in the form of goaltender Igor Shesterkin. While his overall numbers are solid, Shesterkin has a .912 save percentage and +14 Goals Saved Above Expected in 41 outings. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has struggled recently. Shesterkin is 5-2-1 in his last eight starts, but he’s allowed 26 goals on 230 shots (.887 SV%) in that span. 

With Shesterkin out of form, Gerard Gallant will start Jaroslav Halak in goal on Thursday night. Halak has been lights out in a limited role for the Blueshirts, posting a 7-0-1 record and a .924 save percentage in his last eight outings. Shesterkin is far and away the better goaltender, but Halak is in better form, and you can feel pretty safe that he’ll provide stable netminding for the Rangers in this spot.

While the Rangers are outscoring their recent goaltending issues to stay hot, the Red Wings are getting results by grinding out some low-event games. The Wings’ 5-on-5 metrics look poor during this 10-game stretch, but what is working is the defense. Detroit has generated a league-low 72 high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 over its 7-2-1 run, but the Red Wings have conceded just 102. Detroit is turning games into rock fights, and it’s working.

It would make little sense for Detroit to abandon the script of playing stodgy hockey with how things are going. The Red Wings need to bank points any way they can to stay in the hunt, and that will mean doing everything they can to slow down this high-flying Rangers offense. Expect a pretty jam-packed neutral zone, and Detroit selling out to keep this game close, while the Rangers could also adopt a more conservative approach with their backup in goal.

Jaroslav Halak #41 of the New York Rangers makes a save against Sebastian Aho #20 of the Carolina Hurricanes
Jaroslav Halak #41 of the New York Rangers makes a save against Sebastian Aho #20 of the Carolina Hurricanes
NHLI via Getty Images

Betting on the NHL?

The Rangers can turn any game on its head quickly, but this game has the makings of a rigid contest, with both teams focusing on keeping things tight. The 60-minute draw should be in reach throughout the contest and there’s value backing the game to go past regulation at +320.

Rangers vs. Red Wings pick

60-minute tie (+320, BetMGM)

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