Two Metropolitan rivals face off Wednesday night in Manhattan, as the New York Rangers (8-8-2, seventh in Metropolitan) host the Washington Capitals (16-3-4, first in Metropolitan). The Capitals come in as winners of their last two games and eight of their last 10, while the Rangers have lost two in a row and three of their last four.
Here is a preview for Wednesday night’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By The Numbers
The Capitals are a team that is continuing to score goals at a remarkable pace. Despite having the 16th-most shots per game on average, Washington is first in goals (3.74) and shooting percentage (11.8). The Capitals have also been among the best teams on the power play for much of the season, ranking fifth with a 24.3 percent success rate.
The Caps are not as strong defensively but still okay, ranking 17th in both goals allowed and shots allowed. But they are also one of the better penalty-killing teams in the league, ranking seventh in the NHL at 85.2 percent.
The Rangers don’t shoot a lot, but when they do, it’s provided very good results. Despite putting up the seventh-fewest shots per game, New York is ninth in the NHL with 3.33 goals per game thanks to its 11.4 shooting percentage, the second-highest just behind Washington. They also rank a respectable 12th on the power play (20.6 percent).
Defense, however, is the reason New York is near the bottom of its division. So far, the Rangers have allowed the second-most goals (3.61) and shots (36.1) per game. The Rangers are also a measly 27th in penalty-kill rate, unfortunate given that no team in hockey averages more penalty minutes per game than they do.
What To Watch
Washington’s top scorers are also its best players, so there are no real surprises for who to look out for. The captain Alex Ovechkin is still a force, as he ranks among the league leaders with 15 goals in addition to 10 assists. The Caps have seven players total who have 15 or more points, including Evgeny Kuznetsov (nine goals, 12 assists) and Nicklas Backstrom (four goals, 14 assists).
But New York will have to be concerned about Norris Trophy front-runner John Carlson, who leads all defensemen in points with 34, 26 of which have come via assist. Carlson’s play-making ability and two-way game has been the difference for the Capitals this season.
The Rangers’ big acquisition this offseason is living up to his paycheck. Artemi Panarin leads the team with nine goals and 23 points in 18 games, acting as a staple on the first line and the power play. Ryan Strome is next with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists), followed by breakout players Pavel Buchnevich and Tony DeAngelo, who are each at 15 points.
New York definitely misses Mika Zibanejad, however, as the center was up to 11 points in nine games before missing the last nine with an upper-body injury.
Wednesday’s game will feature two Vezina Trophy winners. First, the Capitals, who will start Braden Holtby once again. Holtby is 11-1-3 with a 2.91 GAA and .906 save percentage. The Rangers will counter with Henrik Lundqvist, who is 4-4-1 with a 3.54 GAA and .905 save percentage.
Odds and Pick
The Capitals are the league’s best team in terms of total points, so it’s no surprise that they are -170 favorites on the road. Washington has the league’s top overall offense, while the Rangers are at the bottom of the league on defense. While New York takes a lot of chances on defense and uses it to create offensive opportunities, I don’t think it will have much success against Washington. So give me the Capitals -170 to take care of business.