The Washington Capitals are approaching the Christmas holiday and they have been getting many gifts in the form of standings points in the past few weeks.
The Capitals are at the top of the Metropolitan Division and every power ranking in the NHL. They are hitting their stride at the right time 1/3 of the way through the season. Braden Holtby is one of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL, and the Capitals top line of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie has been a knockout against opposing teams.
Washington has been on the road a lot in the month of December. On Sunday night against the Rangers, the Capitals will be playing their 6th road game of the month. They will have 3 road games and 2 home games remaining in 2015 after their tilt with the Rangers.
The Capitals and Rangers first meeting of the 2015-16 season took place back on November 3 in New York. The Rangers took the first meeting against the Capitals 5-2. Henrik Lundqvist made 34 save in this contest, as costly mistakes and turnovers doomed the Capitals in this game.
This is the second meeting between the Capitals and Rangers. They will see each other again for their third meeting in a couple of weeks on January 9 back in New York.
SIZING UP THE OPPONENT: NEW YORK RANGERS
The New York Rangers have really struggled the past couple of weeks. They have only won 3 out of their last 10 games. They are holding down the 2nd spot in the Metropolitan Division, with the NY Islanders right behind them.
The Rangers have only won 2 games in the month of December. They have spent some time out West recently. They dropped all 3 games in their Western Canada road trip a little over a week ago, and now they have lost their last 2 games against Central Division opponents Minnesota and Winnipeg. Both Rangers victories came in New York against Ottawa and Edmonton.
Even though the Rangers have struggled, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is still having a spectacular season. He is keeping pace among all NHL goaltenders in various categories. Lundqvist has recorded 15 wins, a 2.30 goals against average, and .928 save percentage.
Ranger forwards Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard are leading the way in goals and points for the club. Notable Capital killer Chris Kreider has only 5 goals in 34 games played this season.
The Rangers are a very good team on home ice. Madison Square Garden is one of the toughest buildings to play in the NHL. The Rangers have won 13 out of 18 games at the Garden in 2015-16.
WAVE TO THE GOOD GUYS: WASHINGTON CAPITALS
The Lightning were left thunderstruck once the 3rd period ended in Washington. It was a heck of a comeback for the Capitals against Tampa Bay on Friday night. It is unfortunate that Braden Holtby had to get the mercy pull from Barry Trotz in the 2nd period. He did nothing wrong in this game, but the Capitals just needed to get some kind of spark.
The Capitals actually opened the game against Tampa pretty well, as they were fighting the mountain of Ben Bishop in the opening frame. The Capitals came out in the 2nd period very lethargic, and Tampa took advantage half way through the game. The Bolts scored 2 goals within a few minutes of each other halfway through. At Holtby’s expense, Barry Trotz decided to send a message to the Capitals bench.
It looks like the Capitals got the message, as Ovechkin opened the scoring for the Capitals later in the second period. The Capitals responded with a 4-goal performance in the third period, 2 of those goals were on the powerplay.
This Capitals club is responding pretty well through some tough adversity in games. The Tampa game was the first game the Capitals really trailed big in a while, so it was nice to see they were able to have a goal explosion for a response. The Capitals still need to clean up their moments they have in the games where they tune out. Braden Holtby has been able to cover many of those bad moments up with his stellar play, but the Capitals need to have their “inner spark” going for a full 60 minutes.
The Capitals have won 4 in a row, and they have won 8 out of their last 10 games. They have a +29 goal differential, which is the best rating in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals have won 10 out of 14 road games in 2015-16.
Sunday, December 20, 2015 – CSN-DC; MSG; NHLN-US – 7 PM ET
Schmidt – Carlson
Alzner – Niskanen
Orlov – Chorney
McDonagh – Staal
Summers – Boyle
Yandle – McIlrath
Capitals – TJ Oshie: The 28-year old Everett, WA native is coming off a 4-point night against the Lightning. He has 7 points in his last 3 games, playing alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Oshie has 21 points in 31 games and has been a perfect fit for the Capitals top line. Oshie is showing the Capitals that he is a very versatile player. He skates and hits really well, and plays a big role on the Capitals special teams units. On top of all of that, he is a magician at the NHL shootout. What is there not to like about Oshie?
Rangers – Rick Nash: The 2002 1st overall pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets has been a little streaky recently. He has 0 points in his last 2 games, and only 2 points in his last 4 games. Nash has 10 goals in 32 games this year, and is third in the Ranger points race. Nash is still a high-profile player even at 31. He is a rare breed of speed, size, and power. He is an aggressive shooter, as he is continually ranks high in the NHL every year in shots on goal.
By George Foussekis