The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
“I’m Shaquille O’Neal…”
“…and I’m Ben Stein.”
And you guys aren’t letting me get connected this morning…
What with some “issues” with respect to our internet provider this morning, we have a somewhat abbreviated prognosto. Let’s get to the guts of it…
The Rangers suck.
That’s not merely a cheer for Caps fans at Verizon Center, it’s a statement of fact regarding the Rangers and their performance recently. To wit, since the start of the new calendar year…
- They are 6-8-3
- They have scored 37 goals in 17 games (2.18/game). Take away the 14 they scored in consecutive games against Montreal and Tampa Bay in the middle of January, and that’s 23 goals in 15 games.
- Four of the goals came from players no longer with the Rangers (Ales Kotalik, Christopher Higgins)
- They are 5-for-63 on the power play (7.9 percent); they are without a power play goal in their last seven games.
- They have been held to one or no goals nine times in 17 games.
- They have been shutout four times.
There are two players who absolutely have to perform for the Rangers for them to have even a chance to win these days…
Marian Gaborik. He has eight of the Rangers’ 37 goals since January 1st. Of the six wins the Rangers have this month, he has goals in three of them. About those eight goals since January 1st – by themselves they would rank fifth on the team for the season (not including Gaborik). 20 of his goals this year have come in the Rangers’ 25 wins. And against the Caps he has a pair of two-goal games this year. It would probably be wise to pay attention.
Henrik Lundqvist. If Gaborik has to score, Lundqvist has to keep teams from scoring, and oh, has he been doing that lately. He has had 13 appearances so far since January 1st, and in 10 of them he allowed two or fewer goals. He had a stretch in late January where he allowed 12 goals in three games, but that might be explained away as his suffering the onset of the flu that would end up keeping him out of the last two games of January. Lundqvist returned to the ice on Tuesday and held the Los Angeles Kings to two goals. Trouble is, only Gaborik could get a goal – the Rangers lost, 2-1. He is 1-1-0 against the Caps so far this season (3.03, .887).
The Rangers could use some support. Brandon Dubinsky, for example. He is the third-leading point scorer for the Blueshirts this season, and that in only 44 games. He has four goals since January 1st, two of them game-winners. But he has never recorded a goal in the regular season against the Caps in nine games (he does have four assists).
Then there is Sean Avery. In his first tour with the Rangers, his 23 goals in 80 games and 212 penalty minutes made him the darling bad boy of Manhattan. Then he ended up in Dallas. Well, that didn’t work, so back to Manhattan he came. Unfortunately – for the Rangers – he has only six goals in 52 games this season, only two of them since Thanksgiving. Once a “bad boy,” now he’s merely obnoxious. He has an assist in one game against the Caps this season.
If there is a weakness for the Rangers – other than their inability to find the back of the net with a map and a flashlight – it is their defense. More column inches have been devoted to Wade Redden and Michal Roszival by the New York Post’s Larry Brooks than have been devoted to two World Wars. None of that commentary has been complimentary. Michael Del Zotto is a defenseman with considerable promise, and he showed that early on by going 4-8-12, plus-4 in his first dozen games this year, his first in the NHL. But reality does set in with young guys, and since Thanksgiving he is 1-7-8, minus-18 in 34 games.
For the Caps, this is a big stage, and Alex Ovechkin seems to like a big stage, be it Toronto, Montreal, or the Big Apple. He has four goals in his last five games at Madison Square Garden. And, although he has ten goals since being named Captain, he has only one multi-goal game since December 19th.
In the end, the Rangers can’t score (Olli Jokinen is not the answer to that problem), and Lundqvist has to come up big after flying home from the left coast, having played a game just after coming back from the flu.
If Gaborik doesn’t score and Lundqvist doesn’t come up big (both of which have to occur for the Rangers to win these days, it seems), they have little chance. And if the Caps can get off to a good start, perhaps a couple of early goals, the crowd will be in full-throated “FIRE SATHER” roar right quick. A couple of early goals, an Ovechkin multi-goal game, and an angry crowd.
Sounds like a plan.
Caps 5 – Rangers 2