March 4 – Day 141 – I’ll take Washington for 100, Alex

I predicted that the New York Rangers would easily handle the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Game of the Day actually went the opposite way, as the Pens won 4-1.

The first goal of the game wasn’t scored until the 36:50 mark, the lone tally for the Blueshirts.  It was a Chris Kreider wrister, assisted by Mats Zuccarello (his 27th helper of the season) and Ryan McDonagh.  Pittsburgh leveled the score only 57 seconds later with a wrister from Sidney Crosby, assisted by Carl Hagelin and Kris Letang (his 38th helper of the season).  Evgeni Malkin’s game-winner crossed the goal line at the 18:08 mark (his 25th tally of the season), assisted by Chris Kunitz and Trevor Daley.  The Penguins‘ three-goal period was completed with only 34 seconds remaining, courtesy of a Patric Hornqvist tip-in, assisted by Phil Kessel (his 22nd helper of the season) and Malkin.

Only one goal was scored in the third, courtesy of a Kessel wrister assisted by Malkin (his 29th helper of the season) on an empty net.

Marc-Andre Fleury earns the win after saving 27 of 28 (96.4%), while Henrik Lundqvist takes the loss, saving 19 of 22 (86.4%).  He was replaced for the third period by Antti Raanta, who saved all three shots he faced.

The DtFR Game of the Day now stands at 64-34-13, favoring the home sides by 36 points over the roadies.

Only three games are being played on this first Friday of March, and two of them drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (the New York Rangers at Washington [NHLN] and Edmonton at Columbus).  This evening’s nightcap, New Jersey at Dallas, drops the puck at 8:30 p.m. eastern.

The New YorkWashington game is our Game of the Day for a variety of reasons:

  1. It’s our only divisional matchup.
  2. It’s our only game between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.
  3. It’s a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.
  4. Washington has the opportunity to earn their 100th point in the standings, which surely is the NHL version of Lawler’s Law, but for qualifying for the playoffs.

New York Rangers LogoWashington Capitals LogoTonight’s game will be New York‘s 18th in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 9-6-2 record.  Washington has played 13 games in the series before tonight’s game, and own a 10-3-0 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in the series was Wednesday, when they beat the Maple Leafs 3-2.

The 37-21-6 New York Rangers currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  They play the seventh best offense in the league, paired with the ninth best defense.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within yesterday’s article.

Yesterday’s 4-1 loss ended the Rangers‘ win-streak at three.  A win tonight is important, as the Islanders are not active, giving the Blueshirts the opportunity to advance their lead for second to five points.

The 47-12-4 Washington Capitals currently occupy the top spot in the division, conference and league by at least 13 points.  They play a well-rounded game, but that seems to gives the impression that they don’t do anything particularly well – that’s about the exact opposite of the Caps.  They’ve scored the second most goals in the league, paired with giving up the second least.  A more in-depth analysis of Washington‘s play can be found in Wednesday’s article.

Washington has won their last two games played, with their most recent being their 3-2 victory over the Leafs on Wednesday.  A win tonight for the home side improves their lead for the Metropolitan Division to an even 20 points.

Washington currently leads the season series 3-1-0, with the most recent game occurring January 17, a 5-2 Capitals win in Washington.  These squads also met last season in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, with New York winning the deciding Game Seven on home ice before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Conference Finals.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include New York‘s Henrik Lundqvist (31 wins [tied for fourth most in the league], four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league] and .923 save percentage [tied for ninth best in the league]) & Washington‘s Nicklas Backstrom (43 assists [tied for fifth most in the league] and 60 points [10th most in the league]), Braden Holtby (40 wins [leads the league], 2.22 GAA [tied for eighth best in the league] and .923 save percentage [tied for ninth best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+30 [leads the league], 46 assists [tied for third most in the league] and 66 points [fifth most in the league]) and Alex Ovechkin (41 goals [leads the league] and +24 [tied for fourth best in the league]).

It’s always tough to pick against the best team in the league, regardless of location.  Giving them home ice this evening should be more than enough to give the Capitals the edge over the Rangers.

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