After a head-to-head thriller Tuesday, the Islanders and Rangers return to action Thursday in the thick of the NHL playoff chase.

The Rangers (+120) won that intense Tuesday tussle 4-3 in overtime. It was their 10th outright win as an underdog since the start of 2020. For the season, backers are up almost 14 units against the money line (a $100 wager on every Rangers game would have netted $1,347, per Covers.com), and up almost eight units against the puck line that adjusts prices to plus-or-minus 1.5 goals.

Thursday, the Rangers play in Montreal before traveling to Philadelphia Friday and taking on the Flyers again Sunday afternoon at the Garden. The Islanders visit defending league-champion St. Louis. Isles backers are up four units for the season against the money line, but down five units against the puck line because of many one-goal victories.

In recent weeks, the Islanders and Rangers have been converging in the Metropolitan Division standings …

  • Islanders: A record of 23-8-2 through 33 games sunk to 35-20-7. That dropped the Islanders from a likely playoff team to one which could blow the season with a poor finish.
  • Rangers: A record of 19-18-4 through 41 games surged to 34-24-4. That stretch made a fortune for backers, and launched the Rangers into wild-card contention. To keep it going, the Rangers must overcome an injury to goalie Igor Shesterkin, suffered Sunday in a car accident.

Odds at William Hill currently show the Islanders at 17/1 to win the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Rangers 35/1. To win the Stanley Cup, the Isles are 35/1, the Rangers 75/1.

As is typically the case with futures prices, bettors will find better value riding their preferred sides in “rolling” money-line parlays through the playoffs. Both the Islanders and Rangers are likely to earn much higher returns for investors with that approach.

An easy way to visualize it: taking a team to win four straight rounds at pick ’em would pay about 11/1 (depending on the store) with a rollover approach (reinvesting your original stake and all returns as you go). A team getting +130 per round would earn about 26/1. At +150 per round, it’s about 37/1. At +200 per round (which could be in play for the Rangers), about 80/1.

The Eastern brackets will be loaded this spring. You can deduce that from current William Hill odds to win the conference:

Lightning 5/2, Bruins 7/2, Capitals 4/1, Penguins 5/1, Maple Leafs 17/2, Flyers 15/1, Islanders 17/1, Hurricanes 17/1, Blue Jackets 25/1, Rangers 35/1.

Either New York entry (or both) would be significant ’dogs to run the table in that field. And, running that table only gets you to the eventual Western champ.

The best way to back your team to win the title is to wait and see if it makes the playoffs, then roll over round by round.