Capitals Game Preview: Return to the Scene of the Crime (WSH/NYR)

Caps-NYR

The Capitals have hit the 10-game mark in the 2015-16 season and they have given the fans plenty to cheer about.  Through 10 games, the Capitals have posted an incredible 8-2 record.  They are sitting at the top of the Metropolitan Division, while they have some games in hand on some of their division rivals.

While the Capitals hot start has been awesome, the Metropolitan Division is a very tight race right now.  There are five Metropolitan Division teams that are within three points of each other for the top spot (Washington 16, NY Rangers 16, NY Islanders 15, Pittsburgh 14, NJ Devils 13).

The lead is not safe in the Metropolitan Division, and if one team has a bad week, they can shoot to the bottom of the playoff standings quickly.

SERIES FLASHBACK
The Capitals and Rangers are familiar foes in the playoffs.  It seems like they get to play each other every year.  While the Capitals fell short to the Rangers in the 2015 NHL Playoffs, here is an unforgettable moment scored in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden of that playoff series:

In 2014-15, the Capitals and Rangers played each other 4 times.  The Rangers won three out of the four regular season meetings.

SERIES PREVIEW
This is the first of five meetings for the Capitals and Rangers.  They will not see each other again until the Capitals return to New York on December 20.  As expected, this early season tilt is already a battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

SIZING UP THE OPPONENT: NEW YORK RANGERS
The Rangers have been the gold standard of the Eastern Conference.  They have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals three out of the last four seasons.  They also won the Presidents’ Trophy last year, as they finished the regular season with the most points.

When people think of the NY Rangers, they first think of Henrik Lundqvist.  The All-Star Swedish netminder is worth every bit of hype that he gets.  He is the cornerstone of the Rangers organization.

rangers-beat-capitals-in-2015-stanley-cup-playoffs1

(Photo: Washington Post)

But this Rangers team goes far beyond Lundqvist.  The Rangers are a team that is built on speed and transition.  Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, and Chris Kreider are just a few of the guys that the Rangers have that have plenty of speed.

In addition to the speed the Rangers have up front, there is plenty of mobility on the blueline too.  Keith Yandle is one of the NHL’s top puck moving blueliners, while Marc Staal and Dan Girardi provide plenty of defensive support.

The Rangers are well constructed and there is no reason why they cannot repeat their previous success.  They have very few team flaws and there is plenty of youth to go around for their club.

WAVE TO THE GOOD GUYS: WASHINGTON CAPITALS
The Capitals are coming off back-to-back wins against Columbus and Florida over the weekend.  Both games were close, and were decided 2-1.  The Capitals did not play great games in either contest, and Barry Trotz even changed the lines in the Florida game to try and generate an offensive spark.

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) skates the puck up the ice during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, Sunday, March 29, 2015, in New York. The Capitals won 5-2. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(Photo: Washington Post)

While the wins are good, the Capitals still need to improve their game.  The powerplay went 0 for 4 in the two wins, and they looked out of sync.  If the Capitals are able to get some powerplays opportunities against the Rangers, they need to bury their chances.

The biggest question mark in the Capitals lineup right now is their fourth line.  They have not been as productive as some would hope.  Brooks Laich has a whopping 0 points in 10 games, Chandler Stephenson has 0 points in 7 games, and Andre Burakovsky has 5 points in 10 games.

The Capitals have gotten pretty consistent production from their top 3 lines this season, but the fourth line has provided very little punch.  If this trend continues, is it time to call someone up from Hershey?

STANDINGS UPDATE:

standings

NETWORK INFORMATION:
Tuesday, November 2, 2015 – CSN-DC; MSG – 7 PM ET

PROJECTED LINEUPS
capitals.Washington Capitals
Forwards:
Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Oshie
Johansson-Backstrom-Williams
Chimera-Beagle-Burakovsky
Laich-Stephenson-Wilson

Defensemen:
Orpik – Carlson
Alzner – Niskanen
Orlov – Schmidt

Goaltenders:
Braden Holtby
Philipp Grubauer

New York Rangers
rangersForwards:
Nash – Brassard – Zuccarello
Kreider – Stepan – Fast
Lindberg – Hayes – Stalberg
Miller – Moore – Stoll

Defensemen:
McDonagh – Girardi
Staal – Klein
Yandle – McIlrath

Goaltenders:
Henrik Lundqvist
Antti Raanta

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT
Capitals – Justin Williams: “Mr. Game 7” has had a good start to his 2015-16 campaign.  The 34-year old Ontario native has 2 goals and 8 points in his first 10 games as a Cap.  Williams had a nice goal against Columbus over the weekend that gave the Capitals the early lead after their sluggish start.  He has been a great addition to the Capitals second line and he has brought a calming presence to his peers.

Rangers – Mats Zuccarello: The 28-year old Norway native is a fan favorite in the Big Apple.  He is coming off a hat trick performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs last Friday night.  He has 7 goals and 9 points in his first 11 games and has the Rangers hottest hand right now.

By George Foussekis

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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