The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals meet Wednesday in NHL action at the Capital One Arena. The New York Rangers are coming off a 27-win season and will begin the Gerard Gallant coaching era. The Washington Capitals won 36 games last season and enter year two under coach Peter Laviolette.
The New York Rangers have made the postseason just once in the last four years, and they hope Gallant is an upgrade over David Quinn, who won 96 games in three seasons. The Rangers made a lot of changes to the roster as well, which includes bringing in Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Reaves, Patrik Nemeth, Jarred Tinordi, Sammy Blais and Dryden Hunt. The Rangers defense should be improved from a year ago, and this has a chance to be a feisty team that’s physical from the opening period. Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin both return, and they’ll have to stay healthy if the Rangers want to make a playoff push. Hopefully the Rangers can get a breakout season from Kaapo Kakko, who enters a contract year. There’s potential with the Rangers, but we have to take a wait and see approach.
The Washington Capitals are pretty much the exact same team they were a season ago, as they only said goodbye to Brenden Dillon, Michael Raffl and Zdeno Chara while adding Matt Irwin. The Capitals roster is aging quickly, but the talent and experience is there to make maybe one last cup push with this group. Evgeny Kuznetsov is probably due for a bounce back season, Nicklas Backstrom has to stay healthy and prove that hip isn’t an issue, while Ilya Samsonov can’t possibly be any worse at goalie than he’s been in his first two seasons. If the Capitals just get better and more consistent efforts from those three players, they have to like their chances this season. Of course, Alex Ovechkin is still the heartbeat of the Capitals at 36 years old and has produced 172 goals and 113 assists in his last 276 games played.
The Rangers are 9-24 in their last 33 games as an underdog and 1-5 in their last 6 overall. The Capitals are 23-6 in their last 29 games as a favorite and 0-4 in their last 4 overall. The under is 12-5-2 in Rangers last 19 road games. The under is 6-1-2 in Capitals last 9 overall. The Rangers are 2-8 in the last 10 meetings in Washington.
The New York Rangers haven’t had a lot of recent success playing in Washington, but they have split the last 10 meetings against the Capitals overall. The Rangers should be a lot more physical and nasty on defense this season, and I expect them to set the tone early under a new coach. The Caps finished last season playing sloppy hockey and still have questions in net. The Capitals are probably the more talented team overall, but the fact this line is this short tells me there’s some belief on the Rangers side. The trends like the Caps, but I’ll take a stab with the Rangers in the underdog role.