The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals return home from their 4-1 loss in Buffalo on Saturday night to host the New York Rangers in a 5:00 match-up at Verizon Center. The contest will kick off a ten-day stretch leading up to the All-Star break in which the Caps will face Metropolitan Division opponents four times in five contests.
Both the Caps and the Rangers will be skating the back-half of a back-to-back set of games, the Rangers having bested the Philadelphia Flyers in a Gimmick, 3-2, on Saturday afternoon. It was one more in a pattern of alternating wins and losses (5-4-1) that goes back to the 7-3 loss the Caps pinned on them on December 20th at Madison Square Garden. This will be their first visit to Washington this season.
Two of those losses over the Rangers’ past ten games came at the hands of the Caps. In addition to the 7-3 loss on December 20th, the Caps took a lead, gave it up, tied the game in the dying seconds of regulation on a goal by Nicklas Backstrom, then grabbed a 4-3 win in overtime on what was Alex Ovechkin’s 499th career goal.
Since that game, the Rangers sandwiched a pair of wins – 2-1 over the Boston Bruins and the trick shot win over the Flyers yesterday – around a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders. Meanwhile, the Caps scored a pair of wins, beating the Ottawa Senators, 7-1, and the Vancouver Canucks, 4-1, before dropping a decision to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
There isn’t a lot new since we wrote about the January 9th meeting of these teams…
- The Caps were first in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference then, and they are now.
- The Rangers were second in the Metropolitan Division then, and they are now.
- The Caps were second in the NHL in scoring offense then, and they are now. They were second in scoring defense then, they are first now.
- The Rangers were fourth in scoring offense then, they are fifth now. They were 14th in scoring defense then, they are 14th now.
- The Caps’ power play…second then, second now. Penalty kil…sixth then, fourth now.
- The Rangers’ power play…12th then, 14th now. Penalty kill… 15th then, 20th now.
Here is where they stand going into this game…
1. Mats Zuccarello leads the team in goals (16), but he is without one in his last six games.
2. Rick Nash, he of the 42 goals last season, has just 12 on the season, and he is without one in his last six games, too.
3. Derick Brassard has not scored a goal on the road in more than a month, since he had a pair in Edmonton against the Oilers in a 7-5 loss on December 11th. He has three goals in 21 road games this season.
4. Oscar Lindberg is tied for seventh in goal scoring among rookies this season (11).
5. The Rangers, a team that has struggled most of the season in their possession numbers (47.4 percent in Corsi-for at 5-on-5/25th), has been decent in that regard over their last ten games. Their overall Corsi-for (50.2), score adjusted (50.5), and close score (49.2; numbers from war-on-ice.com).
1. Nicklas Backstrom has four points (1-3-4) in his last two games against the Rangers.
2. Alex Ovechkin has four goals against the Rangers this season, recording at least one in each of the three games at Madison Squarer Garden. He has both game-winning goals in the Caps’ wins against the Blueshirts this season.
3. Justin Williams was a minus-2 against the Sabres on Saturday night, the first time he was a minus-2 or worse since he recorded a minus-2 in a 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on November 19th (26 games).
4. Marcus Johansson scored the Caps’ only goal in the 4-1 loss to the Sabres on Saturday night. He is 6-6-12 in his last 12 games.
5. The Caps have had strange possession numbers against the Rangers in three games this season. Their overall Corsi-for at 5-on-5 is 52.1 percent, but in close score situations it is 39.8 percent (numbers from war-on-ice.com).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
New York: Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik Lundqvist might get this night off for the Rangers. That might not be a bad thing for the visitors. In three games against the Caps this season he is 1-1-1, 4.09, .876. It is part of a larger uncharacteristic season for the 11-year veteran. Among 39 goalies recording at least 1,000 minutes of ice time, Lundqvist ranks 23rd in goals against average (2.46) and 17th in save percentage (.921). The season numbers are by no means bad, and he allowed two or fewer goals in four of his last five appearances. Still, it has been less of a “King”-like season for Lundqvist.
Washington: Braden Holtby
Braden Holtby lost last night. The last time we could say he lost a game in regulation, we had not yet celebrated Veterans Day, had not yet stuffed the turkey or put the marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole, had not yet wrapped the presents for Christmas, had not yet rung in the new year, and had not yet had a bowl of strawberry ice cream on National Strawberry Ice Cream Day. The loss to the Sabres on Saturday night ended Holtby’s streak of games earning at least on standings point at 22 games (20-0-2). Over those 23 appearances (one no-decision), he posted a 1.85 goals against average and a .939 save percentage with two shutouts. There is another streak he can extend, though. Holtby has not lost consecutive games over his last 48 appearances, going 37-7-3, 2.00, .930, with four shutouts over that span of games. However, among the 21 teams he has faced this season, his save percentage of .869 in three games against the Rangers is his worst.
In the end…
It doesn’t happen often this season, just ten times through 44 games, but here we are again seeing if the Caps can keep from losing consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season (their lone instance of losing consecutive games included a loss in extra time). The Caps have won 11 straight at home dating back to their 3-2 loss to Dallas on November 19th. Eight of those victories were by multi-goal margins, five of them featured the Caps scoring five or more goals. If the Rangers’ recent pattern of wins and losses holds, this will go into the loss column for the Blueshirts. Sounds okay to us.
Capitals 5 – Rangers 2