December 20 – Day 74 – The Caps are heading back to the Garden!

Dallas proved their position as one of, if not the best team in the league by beating Montréal 6-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Stars scored the first goal of the game after only 1:34 minutes of play, the lone goal of the first period.  Second Star of the Game Jason Spezza is credited with the tally, his 12th of the season, assisted by Ales Hemsky.

Even quicker than Spezza scored his goal, First Star Jamie Benn scored his, as he scored his unassisted goal at the 1:24 mark of the second.  1:42 later, Patrick Sharp scored the eventual game-winning power play goal, assisted by Third Star Tyler Seguin and Spezza.  The Habs finally got on the board on a power play of their own, when Tomas Fleischmann and P.K. Subban assisted Daniel Carr to his second goal of the season at the 11:35 mark, setting the score at 3-1.  Any momentum the Canadiens had built though, was squelched by another Stars goal, this one courtesy of Seguin at the 13:51 mark, assisted by Alex Goligoski and Benn.  The 4-1 score held into the second intermission.

It was a night of quick starts for the Stars, as they scored their fifth goal only 31 seconds into the third.  Benn notched his second of the night, assisted by Sharp and Spezza.  3:41 later, the Can scored their final goal of the season when Brian Flynn assisted Paul Byron to a shorty.  On that same power play, Dallas scored their sixth goal of the evening at the 4:27 mark when Vernon Fiddler assisted Patrick Eaves to the second goal of his season, setting the score at the 6-2 final.

13-5-2 Antti Niemi earned the win after saving 21 of 23 (91.3%), while Mike Condon’s record falls to 9-7-3 after saving 17 of 23 (73.9%).  He was pulled after 44:27 for Dustin Tokarski, who saved all four shots he faced.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 28-10-6, favoring the home team by 28 points.

Six games will be played on this Sunday, with the action getting started at 4 p.m. eastern when Vancouver visits Florida, followed an hour later by two more games (New Jersey at Boston and Ottawa at Tampa Bay [RDS2]).  Finally, three games share the nightcap role, all starting at 7 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Detroit [SN], Washington at the New York Rangers [NHLN/TVAS] and San Jose at Chicago).

Two of today’s games are between divisional rivals (Ottawa at Tampa Bay and Washington at New York), as well as two involving two teams between current playoff qualifiers (Washington at New York and San Jose at Chicago).  Lastly, WashingtonNew York is also a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinal.

In other words, we’re watching Washington at New York, just in case you couldn’t figure that out!

Washington Capitals LogoNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

The Capitals have been featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series five times, where they currently own a 2-3-0 record.  The Rangers have been featured an additional two times, and they have a 5-1-1 record.

The 23-6-2 Washington Capitals currently lead both the Atlantic Division as well as the Eastern Conference, trailing the Stars by only two points for the league lead.  They are riding a four-game win streak, with their most recent game a 5-3 victory over the Lightning on Friday.  The Caps play a superior game on both ends of the ice, but their strength has actually been on the ice, which is surprising for a team with Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.

20-4-1 Braden Holtby and co. have allowed only 857 shots, helped by Karl Alzner’s 76 blocks.  Of those shots, only 67 have found the back of the net (92.6% save rate), which ranks second-best in the league.  The Caps‘ penalty kill is not so much their defense, but that they do not commit many penalties.  Washington has only had to defend 87 power plays, and given up 14 goals (83.91% kill rate).

As we’ve grown accustomed to, Washington‘s offense is also very good.  Although they’ve only shot the puck 936 times (led by Ovechkin’s 155), they’ve scored a whopping 94 goals (led by Ovechkin’s 16), sixth best in the league.  Especially potent has been the Caps‘ power play, which has a 25% success rate.

They are visiting the 19-11-4 New York Rangers, who currently occupy second place in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  They are currently riding a two-game losing skid, most recently a 5-2 loss at Winnipeg on Friday.  The Blueshirts will put Holtby to the test, as they exhibit a strong offense.

Led by Rick Nash’s 96, the Rangers have put a total of 950 shots on goal so far this season, scoring 97 of those attempts (led by Mats Zuccarello’s 14).  Although not as potent as Washington‘s, New York‘s power play is also good, as they’ve scored 20 goals (led by Nash’s four) on 92 opportunities.

It goes without saying that a defense spearheaded by 15-8-3 Henrik Lundqvist in net is a good one.  Aided by Dan Girardi’s 71 blocks, the Blueshirts have only allowed 82 on 1049 shots.  Even when a man down, New York has still been strong, as Lundqvist and co. have killed 83.04% of opposing power plays.

Last year, the Caps and Rangers met in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  The Blueshirts won that series in seven games, and if that is indicative of how tonight’s game will go, we should be in for a good one.  Expect the Caps to pull off the road upset.

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