January 9 – Day 91 – I’m running out of jokes for Washington visiting New York…

It was the second straight 4-1 road victory in the Game of the Day series, as Boston earned their 3000th all-time victory with a win at The Rock.

The lone goal of the first period belongs to Frank Vatrano and the Bruins after only 2:02 of play, assisted by Third Star of the Game Colin Miller, his 11th helper of the season.

It was a night of quick starts for the Bruins, as First Star Ryan Spooner fired his ninth goal of the season, this one the eventual game-winner, after being assisted by Second Star Dennis Seidenberg 4:49 after resuming play.  New Jersey tried to stage a comeback with a goal from Bobby Farnham, assisted by Stephen Gionta and Adam Larsson (his seventh of the season) at the 11:57 mark to set the score at 2-1, but eventually gave up a power play goal to Jimmy Hayes with only 1:25 remaining in the period, assisted by Zdeno Chara (his 15th helper of the season) and Matt Beleskey.

Boston completed their series of quick goals when Seidenberg and Spooner (his 19th assist of the season) assisted Miller to the final goal of the game, setting the score at the 4-1 final.

Tuukka Rask took the night off, so it’s Jonas Gustavsson who earned the win after saving 19 of 20 (95%) to improve his record to 7-3-1, while Cory Schneider’s record falls to 17-13-5 after saving 27 of 31 (87.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 35-19-7, favoring the home squad over the roadies by 21 points.

It’s a busy Saturday in the NHL, with a whopping 10 games being played.  There’s two matinees at 1 p.m. eastern, both of them involving the teams from the Big Apple (Washington at the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders at Philadelphia).  Four games drop the puck at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern (Pittsburgh at Montréal [NHLN/TVAS/SN], Boston at Ottawa, Carolina at Columbus and Toronto at San Jose [CBC]), followed an hour later by Minnesota at Dallas.  The games west of the Rockies get started at 9 p.m. eastern when Nashville visits Arizona, followed an hour later by Tampa Bay at Vancouver (CBC/SN).  Finally, this evening’s nightcap drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern when St. Louis visits Los Angeles.

Five of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Washington at New York, New York at Philadelphia, Boston at Ottawa, Carolina at Columbus and Minnesota at Dallas), while four feature teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Washington at New York, Minnesota at Dallas, Nashville at Arizona and St. Louis at Los Angeles).  Washington at New York also represents a rematch of an Eastern Conference Semifinal from last season’s playoffs.

Since we already watched Washington‘s rematch with their quarterfinal opponent of a year ago, let’s watch them take on their opponent from the semifinals.

Washington Capitals LogoNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Washington has been featured seven times before tonight’s game, and owns a 4-3-0 record in such games.  Their most recent was a 4-1 victory in Brooklyn on Thursday.  Tonight’s game will tie New York with Chicago for 11 appearances, most in our series.  The Rangers own a 6-3-1 in such games, with their most recent being a 3-0 loss in Sunrise last Saturday to the Panthers.

The 30-7-3 Washington Capitals currently own the best team in the NHL, as they have a 14-point lead over the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division, a nine-point lead over the Panthers in the Eastern Conference, and a one-point lead in the league over the Stars.  You can read a summary of their play here, but for those that don’t want to, just know that there’s a reason the Caps lead the league – they’re the best on defense, and second-best in offense.  In other words, they’re pretty good!

The Caps are currently riding a two-game winning streak, and their most recent game was a Thursday 4-1 victory in Brooklyn against the Islanders. You can read a quick-and-dirty recap of it here.

The 22-14-4 New York Rangers currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, and have utilized a strong offense to get them to that position.

Usually, good teams put lots of pucks on net.  Instead, the Rangers prefer to take shots of a higher quality, as they’ve scored 10.3% of their 1132 shots (led by Rick Nash’s 117 shots) for 117 goals (led by Mats Zuccarello’s 16 tallies), fourth-most in the league.  Although the offense as a whole has been one of the best, the Blueshirts‘ power play has been nothing special.  They’ve had 114 opportunities and scored only 22 goals, for a 19.3% success rate that leads the league average by only .17%.

Thanks in part to Ryan McDonagh’s team-leading 77 blocks, the Rangers‘ defense has been able to keep all but 1193 shots away from 18-11-3 Henrik Lundqvist and co., who’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 103 goals against.  Just like the power play, the penalty kill has been only average this season.  New York has defended 133 penalties so far this season, of which they’ve killed 80.45% (.42% below average) for 26 goals against.

The Blueshirts‘ most recent game was a 6-2 victory over the Stars on Tuesday.

The Capitals and Rangers have already met twice before tonight’s game, with both taking place at Madison Square Garden.  New York won the first meeting 5-2 on November 3, but Washington leveled the series only three weeks ago on December 20 with a 7-3 win.  Both of those games were featured as a Game of the Day, and a recap can be found by clicking either score.

Some players to watch in tonight’s games include New York‘s Lundqvist (18 wins [tied for fifth-best in the league]) & Washington‘s Nicklas Backstrom (25 assists [tied for eighth-best in the league]), Braden Holtby (26 wins [best in the league], 1.9 GAA [third-best in the league] and .933 save percentage [fourth-best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+18 [tied for fourth-best in the league]) and Alex Ovechkin (22 goals [fifth-best in the league] and +17 [tied for sixth-best in the league]).

Like I said a couple days ago, it is hard to pick against the Washington Capitals.  I don’t care where they’re playing, who they’re playing, or any other variable.  This team is no doubt the best team in the Eastern Conference, and potentially the league.  Expect the Caps to complete their three-day, two-game tour of the Big Apple with four points.

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