Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals clash with the New York Rangers in the nation’s capital on Sunday afternoon and in the Big Apple on Tuesday night for the fifth and sixth meetings against them this season, respectively.
The Rangers have taken three of the first four games of the season set, including a 3-1 win in Washington on March 20 in the teams’ last meeting (which snapped a seven game winning streak for the Capitals) and a 4-2 victory in New York on February 4. Overall, the Rangers have won five of the last six games against the Capitals (5-1-0).
Action from Capital One Arena on Sunday can be seen on NBC beginning at 12 noon ET while NBC Sports Washington will cover Tuesday’s game at Madison Square Garden beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Rangers conclude a three-game road trip and continue a stretch of 16 of 21 games away from the Garden. They earned a split in their series with the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center, including a 2-1 loss on Saturday. The Rangers are 8-8-1 on the road this season and are 3-5-0 in their last eight away from Madison Square Garden. They are 7-6-3 at home but have gone 4-1-1 in their last six at MSG.
The Rangers have heated up lately as they have gone 11-7-1 since February 17 and are 8-5-1 in March to climb within five points of the Boston Bruins for the fourth spot in the East Division, though Boston has three games in hand. They won four out of five (4-1-0) before falling to the Flyers on Saturday. Their 3.55 goals-per-game since February 15 ranks second in the NHL behind the Colorado Avalanche (3.65) and they have averaged 2.65 goals-against per game over that time (14th). They have gone 23.2% (10th) on the power play and an 85% on the penalty kill (fifth). They have also limited opponents to just 29 shots-per-game over that span (10th).
Forward Pavel Buchnevich leads the Rangers with 31 points in 32 games. His 13 goals trail only forward Chris Krieder’s 16. The 25-year-old saw a three-game point streak where he recorded three goals and five points end on Saturday. Krieder, 29, has earned two goals and three points in his past three games. Defenseman Adam Fox’s 23 assists lead the Rangers. He has recorded one goal and 12 points in a six-game assist streak. Forward Artemi Panarin, who has recorded three goals and 11 points in eight games since returning from a leave of absence, leads the Rangers with an average of 1.32 points-per-game (29 in 22).
The Rangers’ average of 3.09 goals-per-game this season ranks 12th in the NHL while their average of 2.65 goals-against per game is 10th. Their 18.2% power play efficiency is 24th but their 84.8% penalty-killing rate ranks fifth. The Rangers’ average of 29.4 shots-per-game is at the league average but their average of 28.8 shots-against per game is tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for seventh. The Rangers’ 44.7% faceoff-winning percentage is the worst this season.
The Rangers rank 23rd with a 48.01% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage and 50.43% expected goals-for percentage is at the league average. Their 48.59% scoring chances-for percentage is 22nd. The Rangers’ 9.04% five-on-five shooting percentage is good for eighth while their .921 team save percentage is 14th. Their 1.011 PDO is tied with the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers for eighth.
The Capitals close out a six-game homestand, which matches their longest of the season, on Sunday before starting a five-game road trip through the tri-state area on Tuesday. The Capitals have gone 8-2-1 over their past 11 game games, with both regulation losses coming against the Rangers. Overall, the Capitals are 12-4-2 at Capital One Arena (eighth-best home record in the NHL) and 10-3-2 on the road (sixth) this season. They have won four in a row and eight of their last nine (8-1-0) on the road.
The Capitals enter Sunday as the NHL’s hottest team as they are 16-3-1 in their last 20 games, 13-2-0 in their last 15, 9-1-0 in their last 10, and are coming off of back-to-back wins against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday and Friday, when they won 4-0. The Capitals have outscored opponents 20-8 over the past six games. Since February 15, they have averaged 3.30 goals-per-game (sixth) and 2.20 goals-against per game (third). The Capitals also rank 11th in penalty-killing efficiency (82.1%) over that time.
Center Nicklas Backstrom leads the Capitals with 22 assists and 35 points in 33 games this season. The 33-year-old has alternated between games on and off the scoresheet lately but recorded a goal in the Capitals’ 4-0 win on Friday. Captain Alex Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 17 goals and has recorded 29 points in 29 games this season. The 35-year-old has posted 10 goals and 12 points in his last 10 games after recording two goals on Friday. Center Lars Eller’s status is unclear for Sunday’s game. The 31-year-old has missed seven straight games with a lower-body injury,
The Capitals’ average of 3.39 goals-per-game ranks fourth in the NHL this season while their average of 2.82 goals-against per game is 16th. Their 24.4% power-play efficiency is good for ninth while their 81.2% penalty-killing rate is 11th. The Capitals’ 27.9 shots-per-game is tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the fourth-lowest but their average of 29.1 shots-against per game is tied with the St. Louis Blues for 12th. Their 48.5% faceoff-winning percentage ranks 23rd.
The Capitals’ 49.41% Corsi-for percentage at five-on-five ranks 18th while their 51.24% expected goals-for percentage is 14th and their 50.41% scoring chances-for percentage is good for 16th. Their 11.25% shooting percentage is 1.37% higher than the next-best team in the NHL (Minnesota Wild) while their 1.035 PDO also tops the league. The Capitals’ .9228 team save percentage at five-on-five is 13th.
Rangers – Keith Kinkaid, 31 (3-1-1, .908 save percentage, a 2.22 goals-against average, and one shutout this season), and Igor Shesterkin, 25 (7-7-1 with a .922 save percentage, 2.36 goals-against average). Shesterkin, who is 2-0-0 with a .950 save percentage and a 1.50 goals-against average in two starts vs. the Capitals this season, started against the Flyers on Saturday. Kinkaid is 4-4-0 with an .891 save percentage, a 3.05 goals-against average, and one shutout in eight career games against the Capitals, including a 28-save performance on March 20.
Capitals – Ilya Samsonov, 24 (7-1-1, .917 save percentage, 2.22 goals-against average, one shutout), and Vitek Vanecek, 25 (14-5-3, .910 save percentage, 2.67 goals-against average, one shutout). Samsonov, who made 22 saves in the Capitals’ 3-1 loss to the Rangers last weekend, is 0-1-1 with an .873 save percentage and a 4.09 goals-against average in two career games against the Blueshirts. Vanecek has gone 1-2-0 with a .919 save percentage and a 2.37 goals-against average against the Rangers this season, including a 32-save performance in the Capitals’ 2-1 win on March 19.
By Harrison Brown