The Capitals and the Rangers will play on Thursday night for the first time since the very first game of the season. Washington took home that first game 5-1, but these are two very different teams now. I’ll take a look at the matchup and let you know how it’s going to go down.
The Rangers have won six of their last 10 as well as four of their last five. Chris Kreider’s scoring has slowed down a bit compared to last month, but Goaltender Igor Shesterkin is still holding down the fort in net.
The Capitals on the other hand have won three of four, but are also six and four in their last ten. Captain Alex Ovechkin has four points in five games but only scored in one of those five games, albeit he had two goals. We’ll see in this game which top five goalscorer can take control, Kreider or Ovechkin.
Rangers take a balanced approach
The Ranger’s offense this season has been pretty solid this season averaging 2.94 goals per game while only allowing 2.50 goals per game, which is third in the league. New York also has the number three ranked powerplay as well as the number eight ranked penalty kill in the entire NHL.
The Rangers are a balanced team that scores well and defends well. It helps to have a goaltender that’s playing as well as Shesterkin in right now, but he can’t do it all alone. It takes a team effort to get to where the Rangers are in the standings.
Disaster in D.C.
Despite the Caps having played pretty well over their past four games, since December 1st Washington is one game under .500%. Their powerplay has looked atrocious for the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era, and the penalty kill is almost as bad.
Despite being top 10 in both offensive and defensive goals per game, the Capitals are having trouble stringing together wins. TJ Oshie and Anthony Mantha have been out for a while with injuries and the Caps goaltenders have played inconsistently throughout the winter.
That being said, the panic alarm is not going off just yet. Caps fans can gain hope from finding out that T.J. Oshie skated on Tuesday morning with the team for the first time in over a month. Hopefully D.C. fans can see Oshie’s return to action soon enough
This game comes at an interesting time as the Rangers have a four point lead on the Capitals. This could change the momentum either way depending on who takes this one home.
In their first game of the season, three of the five Capitals goals were scored by TJ Oshie, Hendricks Lapierre, or Justin Schultz, all of whom will not be playing on Thursday. Ovechkin had the other two for the Caps while Kreider scored the Rangers first goal of the season.
Of course one of the most exciting matchups will be Ovechkin vs Kreider. Although they line up on the opposite side of the ice they’re both high energy players with a knack for finding the puck, so I’m certain we’ll see some hits and scraps between these two.
Another matchup I’m excited for is Igor Shesterkin in net for the Rangers vs the Caps explosive offense. If the Caps keep up their efforts from the past few games it’ll get interesting to see if Shesterkin can stand his ground. Reminder: Shesterkin has not played against the Capitals this season.
Finally the matchup I’m most looking forward to is Tom Wilson vs Artemi Panarin. Panarin is a fast wing who leads the Rangers in points and is quite skilled at setting up his teammates. Tom WIlson, despite being branded an enforcer, has 34 points this season and loves to rile up Rangers fans. Can’t wait to see how that plays out.
Best Bets and Predictions
I like the under in this game. Both teams are skilled defensively and I’m expecting a big game from Shesterkin. Under six goals is a lock for me.
I tend to lean towards the Rangers at home, but the Capitals are just as good on the road. Washington is 16-5-4 on the road this year and have outscored their opponents 22-9 in their last five home games. I like the Capitals at plus money.
As far as a prediction goes, I think the Rangers will win in overtime. I expect a great game out of Shesterkin and Panarin and I also expect the Caps to fight very hard. I like the Capitals at plus money because this is going to be a great, close, gritty game and I’ll take value where I can.
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