The Washington Capitals entertain the New York Rangers on Wednesday night in a battle of two teams struggling to maintain their footing. The Capitals (2-4-0) come off of a win against the Edmonton Oilers (hardly Cup contenders) while the New York Rangers (1-4-0) have dropped three straight — allowing 20 goals during that streak.
Maybe this season’s new format of facing more Western Conference teams than usual has something to do with each of these team’s mediocre starts in the Eastern Conference. However, the Caps and the Rangers are very familiar foes and that may bring out the best in both clubs.
The Capitals and Rangers seemingly always end up facing each other in the postseason, so tonight’s game is likely to have a playoff feel to it. The Rangers will be dying not to make it four losses in a row while the Caps will be dying to make amends for their awful 5-0 loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup quarterfinals last May.
I see the game going one of two ways tonight. Either a significant thrashing of the Rangers with the Caps’ top lines hitting the net like it’s target practice, or a close, low-scoring win for either team. It depends on which players show up and perform at 100 percent.
If Alexander Ovechkin and his line buddies get going and score on the inevitable power plays that New York will hand to them, then it’s lights-out Rangers. If the Caps’ defense underperforms (as it has in a few of its first outings) and passes go awry, then the Rangers can make a game of it. Each team is undoubtedly excited to resume the rivalry, especially since both clubs currently have similar records.
“They have bad start, we have bad start. It’s kind of situation where we both have to win. It’s going to be a good battle, going to be a good game,” Ovechkin told the Washington Post. Forward Brooks Laich, who scored his first goal of the season against Edmonton, offered up a challenge. “We need to put some five, six, seven, eight-game winning streaks together and get our record up, get ourselves up in the standings where we want to be.”
The New York Rangers, with uncertainty as its baggage and a new coach with growing pains, will likely fall to the Caps on the road tonight.
Ultimately, I’m with Laich … let’s get that streak going.