For the Rangers, it has been a season to cherish so far. They’ve exceeded expectations with a young squad, and anyone who knows this team knows that the talent has been on full display.

It’s a tight race to be top dog in the Metropolitan Division as well as Eastern Conference in general. The Capitals, Rangers, Penguins, and Hurricanes are all vying for that No. 1 spot in the Metropolitan.

This week the Rangers will have two huge games against two of those top teams in the Capitals and Penguins. This is a prove-it moment for New York and these games will be pivotal to establishing their legitimacy as a heavyweight in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers are sandwiched at No. 3 in the metro between the Capitals and Penguins. The three are separated by just five total points, with the Rangers trailing Pittsburgh by only one.

Capitals vs Rangers

The first of these two tests will feature the Capitals coming into MSG for a Thursday night matchup with New York.

In their only meeting of the season, the Capitals trounced the Rangers, winning 5-1 in DC in the two teams’ first game of the season. That was way back in October though and things are different now.

The Rangers have established themselves as one of the dominant teams in the Eastern Conference and now have four more wins than the Caps in two less games played.

In goal, the Rangers are far superior to the Caps as Igor Shesterkin is No. 1 and No. 2 in save percentage and GAA, respectively. It’s been less than impressive for the Caps in goal as Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek have both been average this season.

What the Caps lack in goaltending abilities, they make up for in spades on offense. They have all-stars in forwards Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Alexander Ovechkin. The last of which is one of the greatest players in the NHL in general and this year is fourth in the league in goals.

The Caps also have a strong defender in John Carlson.

On offense, the Rangers are at a disadvantage, but still have great weapons in Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, and Mika Zibanejad. Their defense and goaltending are also superior to the Caps in general as they have 18 fewer goals against than Washington and a star in defender Adam Fox. Right now, the Rangers are favored at -130 and have home ice.

This is a much more confident team than the one the Caps faced to start the season, and that will likely lead to a much closer game and in the end, a Rangers win.

New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins

After their match in Washington, the Rangers will head into Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon for another big game with the Penguins.

This one is a little harder to get a feel for as it’ll be the two teams’ first meeting of the season. The Rangers trail the Penguins by just one point in the Metropolitan and there’s a lot of talent on both teams.

The Penguins have a much better goaltender than the Caps in the form of Tristin Jarry who is top 10 in GAA and save percentage and is top 5 in wins with 25.

To add to that, the offense has been spectacular this season as the Penguins have the 2nd most goals in the Metropolitan behind the current division leading Carolina Hurricanes.

Their offense is led by an always dominant Sidney Crosby who just recently scored his 500th career goal. They also have an all-star in forward Jake Guentzel who is tied for the eighth most goals in the NHL.

They also have an excellent defense in Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin.

The Penguins are certainly better than the Caps in all facets on paper, but the fact that they haven’t played the Rangers yet may work to New York’s advantage.

This is a young and exciting team that the Rangers have, and they’ve been resilient all year. The odds probably tilt a bit in the Penguins direction, but the Rangers are going to keep it close.

This game will go to overtime and see the Penguins win.