The New York Rangers are looking to get back in the win column at home after dropping back-to-back games in the state of Florida, and this Wednesday’s contest vs. the Washington Capitals provides an opportunity to do so.
The game will be an important test for the Rangers, and being off on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday gives them an opportunity to rest, practice, and reset themselves against one of the best teams in the league.
Playing against one of the top teams in the league is a good benchmark opportunity for a “building” team like the Rangers, and they will need to play the game with an extra sense of urgency, something they didn’t do earlier this month against an Ottawa Senators team that was at the bottom of the standings.
The Rangers will also head into the game with fresh memories of how easily things slipped away from them vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning this past Thursday, and will look to avoid giving a top-10 power play team like the Caps the same opportunities to burn them on the man-advantage.
It’s also good for the Rangers’ kids to look at a team like the Capitals as an example of what happens when you are finally able to put it all together. The Capitals have had a number of core players around for multiple years, but they were able to get over the top with the help with contributions from newcomers like T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller, Brett Connolly, and Devante Smith-Pelly, as well as the explosion of Evgeny Kuznetsov, a former top prospect turned top-six mainstay.
The current Rangers’ roster is full of many young players, some veterans, and newcomers like Artemiy Panarin, and the goal going forward is to develop into a team similar to one that did battle with the Capitals a few short years ago, although it feels much longer than that.
Few on this roster, outside of Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal, and even Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast, have memories of the intense playoff battles between the Rangers and Capitals over the last 10 years — five total series, four of which went the full seven games — but there are players on this roster that remember the intense games played in 2018-19.
Last season the two teams played four exciting games, three of which went to overtime and include scores of 4-3, 6-5, and 3-2. The 6-5 loss came on February 24 in Washington, and it was at a time before the trade deadline in which there was a lot of uncertainty of which players would be on the move, and when they would end up with their new team.
This Wednesday’s game is the second meeting of the two teams. The Rangers lost 5-2 on October 18 in their first matchup. It will be Panarin’s second contests vs. the Capitals since joining the Blueshirts. In 13 career games against the Capitals, Panarin has tallied six goals and added four assists for 10 points; one of those goals came from their October meeting.
Ryan Strome, Panarin’s pivot on the top line in the absence of Zibanejad, is having a pretty strong 2019-20 campaign for the Rangers (6-12-18 in 18GP) and lifetime vs. the Capitals he’s posted a line of 5-10-15 in 22 games while averaging just 15:50 a game.
This is a duo that will be worth watching on Wednesday, and if you’d like to do so in person you can grab some tickets on StubHub using this link which was created specifically for readers of Blueshirt Banter. Panarin is currently on an 11 game point streak — the longest of his career — and there’s a pretty good chance he continues that on Wednesday.
As of this writing the Rangers are 8-8-2 with 18 points in 18 games played, and six points back of the two wild card spots occupied by Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. They also sit two points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (20 points in 17 games), and four back of the Toronto Maple Leafs (22 points in 22 games), two teams who were projected to have big seasons. All things considered the team is in OK shape, but they could be better.
A win against Washington would big a big morale booster, and a help in the standings. Expectations are relatively low for the Rangers, but the goal is to keep making forward progress, and that something they can do by picking up two points on Wednesday.
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