It’s game seven between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers on Monday night and there couldn’t be bigger stakes for this one. Visiting Washington is looking to regain the top spot in the division while the Rangers are still hopeful to make the playoffs and need to win the remainder of their games.
The Rangers (26-20-6) are -105 to win and are 4-2-0 against Washington (32-14-5) this season. The comeback on the Capitals is -115. It was an emphatic win for the Rangers the last time they met and with their playoff lives at stake, bet them to deliver another stellar outing against Washington.
Capitals: The Best Defense
You’d think that the oldest team in the NHL would play a more defensive-minded and slow-paced approach. But it’s been anything but that for the Washington Capitals, who are one of the highest-scoring teams in the league.
“The best defense is a great offense” perfectly encapsulates what this team is about. The Capitals, despite getting outshot in most games, are second in the league in goals per game (3.37). A lot of that is due to an 11.7 shooting percent (S%) plus a red-hot power play at 26.3%.
The Capitals are a front-runner. They average 2.43 goals in the first two periods, the most in the NHL. Even if they run out of gas in the third and are outscored by 11 goals in total, they’ve usually built a big lead in the first two.
Washington is 28-5-4 when heading to the second either tied or ahead. Alex Ovechkin’s absence stings, but the Caps still scored six goals on the New York Islanders. This team won’t be stopped.
Rangers: Short Straw
This new divisional format would yield a great team getting the short-end of the stick and that’s the New York Rangers. This team deserves to make it into the playoffs, especially over some of the other division’s fourth or even third seeds.
The Rangers weathered a slow start and have been playing some elite hockey since. They’ve gone 16-8-3 in their last 27 games and have outscored opponents by 31 goals. Sure, most of that have come against the Philadelphia, New Jersey and Buffao.
But this team has blowout wins over Boston and Pittsburgh, and owns a winning record over Washington. Only the Colorado Avalanche have averaged more goals than the Rangers during this period and only the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins have allowed fewer goals in the division.
Igor Shesterkin made 36 saves, and the Rangers kept pace in the MassMutual East Division playoff race with a 3-1 victory against the Sabres. Alexis Lafreniere scored the go-ahead goal in the third period.https://t.co/byG6ANQJbp
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) April 28, 2021
Igor Shesterkin has emerged as a franchise goaltender for the team. Adam Fox is a favorite for the Norris Trophy. And Artemi Panarin continues to play like a Hart Trophy finalist. This team has it all. But they’re the odd ones out of the division.
The NHL odds are close for a reason: These teams are high-powered offenses that score more than they play defense. However, the totals have gone under four out of six times thanks mainly to goaltending and special teams.
The Rangers have locked down the Capitals’ elite power play, limiting them to just one goal in 19 attempts. Washington didn’t score a power-play goal for its first five games against New York while the Rangers have only gone 3-of-21 and aren’t so hot, either.
Ultimately, I’ll give the edge to the Rangers because they’re more desperate and Shesterkin is better than Vitek Vanecek. Shesterkin is 3-0 against Washington with a 94.6 save percent (SV%). He’s only allowed five goals on 92 shots.
Additionally, throw a dart at the team total for the Rangers to score over 2½ goals at -155.
Pick: New York Rangers -105