Game Thirty-One, the Washington Capitals at the New York Rangers
The Rangers have just finished a home-and-home weekend sweep of the bottom dwellers of the Metropolitan division only to face the team that is neck and neck with them in the standings in a battle for third place in the division. The Washington Capitals, under new coach Barry Trotz, are playing like a different team from what we have seen the last few seasons. The Caps are ninth in the league in G/G and twelfth in the league in GA/G. The Rangers are eight in the league in the league in goals per game and eleventh in goals allowed per game. It doesn't get much tighter than that, does it?
The Capitals' penalty killing needs some work, they are twenty-sixth in the league and will have to make sure they keep their discipline in an emotional game against the Blueshirts. However, the Rangers will have to be even more vigilant in staying out of the box. The Capitals' power play is second in the league behind only the San Jose Sharks. Giving Backstrom and Ovechkin time and space on the man advantage is a great way to lose hockey games. Washington beat the Senators last night 2-1 thanks to a power play goal late in the second period from Backstrom. They rely on their power play to produce in a way that the Rangers just can't say for their own power play, and it is, without a doubt, their biggest weapon. Hopefully they will have some tired legs tonight and will have issues controlling the Rangers' speed and forechecking, but there are some great puck movers in the Caps' lineup and tonight will be a big test for both teams. The Rangers are looking to keep their winning streak alive and well, and the Caps are looking to pick up their fifth straight win in a huge road game for them. Both teams have been on a tear in their last ten games which makes tonight's game all the more exceptional, this is can't miss hockey.
The New York Rangers' December Schedule
12/1 Tampa Bay at the Rangers, 7:00(loss) 12/6 Rangers at Detroit, 7:00(loss) 12/8 Penguins at Rangers, 7:00(win) 12/13 Rangers at Vancouver, 10:00(win) 12/14 Rangers at Edmonton, 9:30(win) 12/16 Rangers at Calgary, 9:00(win) 12/20 Rangers at Carolina, 7:00(win) 12/21 Carolina at Rangers, 7:00(win)
12/23 Capitals at Rangers, 7:00
12/27 Devils at Rangers, 7:00
12/29 Rangers at Dallas, 8:30
12/31 Rangers at Florida, 6:00
Mike's Player to Watch: Martin St. Louis
Sunday night's victory of the Hurricanes was Marty's seventh straight game without a goal. The veteran winger was red hot in November but has since cooled down, picking up 3 assists in his last 7 games and registering just 2 shots over his last 3 games. Early on, the Rangers were on life support with the offense of St. Louis and Nash. Thankfully, the depth scoring and blue line scoring has picked up for the Blueshirts, but the Rangers still need Marty to produce, especially on the power play where he seems to be the main target and the player that they want to get the puck. Look for St. Louis to make an impact tonight in a big divisional game with the Rangers' winning streak on the line at the Garden.
There won't be Rangers' hockey again until they play host to the Devils on the 27th, Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it. Let's go Rangers.