New York Rangers Game Thread: 3/11, Rangers at Capitals

Ovechkin and the Capitals are hoping to make a statement tonight on their home ice and derail the Rangers.

Game Sixty-Six, the New York Rangers at the Washington Capitals
Record: 41-17-7
Opponent: 36-21-10
Season Series: 1-0-0, Rangers
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After tonight's game the Rangers and Capitals will play twice more before the regular season comes to a close, so this season series is far from over despite the late hour of the season we find ourselves in. Coming into tonight's game the Rangers currently lead the season series 1-0 thanks to a 4-2 win (and a Rick Nash hat trick) on the Garden ice on December 23rd but a lot has changed since late December. The Rangers have been winning games and climbing the division and conference standings despite not having Henrik Lundqvist in net, and the Capitals have been battling tooth and nail to secure a playoff spot for the 2015 Playoffs.

As of today the Caps are holding the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and have a 6 point edge over the Bruins who have their claws in the other one. So their playoff destiny is very much in their own hands.The Capitals have the second best power play in the league, behind only the Detroit Red Wings, and remain one of the offensive powerhouses in the league thanks to the goal scoring machine known as "Ovi." The Caps have also added two noteworthy pieces since late December; Tim Gleason was acquired from the Canes and Curtis Glencross was shipped in from the Flames in an effort to add more depth to the club. On paper, it is safe to say that the Rangers are still the superior and more balanced team, but all of that can and will go out the window tonight if the Rangers give Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and the Caps too many chances on the power play. The Rangers have to do what they can to stay disciplined and keep the puck in the Caps' zone despite the wear and tear of playing a nasty game last night in Uniondale.

If the Rangers win tonight they will have started this brutal five game road trip 2-0-1 and will overtake the Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division while still possessing three games in hand. That sounds pretty outstanding to me. The Rangers skayers may have some tired legs tonight, but if they can find a way to get two points in Washington they will have a two day break to look forward to and the Buffalo Sabres as the next team on the docket. Let's see what the Rangers can do tonight less than 24 hours after their emotional victory over the Islanders in their last regular season game at Nassau Coliseum. It's another big divisional game with yet another four point swing on the line. Let's do this.

The New York Rangers' March Schedule

3/2, Predators at Rangers, 7:00 (win.)
3/4, Rangers at Red Wings, 8:00 (overtime loss.)
3/8, Rangers at Blackhawks, 7:30 (win.)
3/10, Rangers at Islanders, 7:00 (win!!!)
3/11 Rangers at Capitals, 8:00
3/14, Rangers at Sabres, 7:00
3/15, Panthers at Rangers, 5:00
3/18, Blackhawks at Rangers, 8:00
3/21, Rangers at Hurricanes, 7:00
3/22, Ducks at Rangers, 7:30
3/24, Kings at Rangers, 7:00
3/26, Rangers at Senators, 7:00
3/28, Rangers at Bruins, 1:00
3/29, Capitals at Rangers, 3:00
3/31, Rangers at Jets, 8:00

Mike's Player to Watch: Rick Nash
Undoubtedly we'll be hearing plenty about Nash and Ovechkin, the NHL's two leading goal scorers, playing on the same ice surface for the first time since December 23rd. Ovechkin has run away with the goal scoring lead recently but Nash has still been a huge factor in his team's success each and every night. Nash is deservedly in the Hart Trophy discussion by some hockey analysts and it certainly isn't because he is a one-dimensional goal scorer having a great season. Joe Fortunato described Nash as a "three zone superstar" earlier this month and that phrase has stuck to my brain like mashed potatoes clinging to a dry plate. It seems like Nash does something critical and essential in nearly every Rangers' victory this season. I can't remember the last time he wasn't a factor for the Blueshirts this season. Nash picked up the gigantic GWG in last night's 2-1 victory over the Islanders so chances are big Rick is feeling pretty damn good coming into tonight's game. Here's hoping he nets his 40th of the season against the Capitals to help the Rangers grab another big win the Metropolitan Division.

Let's go Rangers. Drop the puck.