By Buster Williams
The Washington Capitals return to the ice Wednesday night in a divisional match-up against the New York Rangers. The Rangers will make the trip to Capital One Arena, just one night after a 3-2 shootout victory over the Colorado Avalanche. The Capitals, who have already played games on back-to-back nights on two separate occasions (going 0-1-1), will look to take advantage of a potentially tired New York team.
Rangers Are Shot Happy
The Rangers were active in their win Tuesday night, putting 43 shots on goal. The regulation goals were scored by Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes, while Mats Zuccarello and former Capital Kevin Shattenkirk converted goals in the shootout win. Henrik Ludqvist continued his strong play on the season by making 31 saves. The win was important for the Rangers, who moved to 2-4-0 after getting off to a tough start. Offensive production has been the main issue for New York, who has topped three goals in a game only once this season. The only time the team scored more than two goals in regulation was in their 8-5 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Capitals Started Hot; Fizzled
The Caps are coming off two straight loses after a hot start to the season. They last played on Saturday in a 4-2 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs, moving their record to 2-2-1. Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie have four goals each for Washington, but the team has been able to provide solid offensive production so far this season, with the exception of a shutout loss to the New Jersey Devils. The Caps would like to tighten up on the defensive end because they have already allowed 19 goals this season (10th most in the NHL).
Power Play and Penalty Kill
One key aspect of the game may be the power play. Washington’s power play unit has looked good so far, converting on 36.8 percent of their chances (4th best in the league), while the Rangers have only been able to kill 73.7 percent of the power plays they have faced (8th worst in the league). Conversely, the Rangers have converted on just 11.1 percent of their man-advantages, while the Capitals have a 77.8 percent penalty kill.
Void In The Caps’ Faceoff Department
Another match-up to keep an eye on is in the faceoff circle. The Capitals enter tonight’s game with the second worst faceoff percentage, winning just 43.8 percent of the time. The Rangers have been much better in that aspect of the game, winning 50.7 percent of their faceoffs, including a dominating performance against the Avalanche, in which they won them 67 percent of the time. Who was the Caps’ faceoff maestro until recently? Jay Beagle, of course, but he moved on during the offseason to Vancouver – leaving a huge void in the Caps’ faceoff circles.
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. from Capital One Arena. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports and 106.7 The Fan.