Since we last saw our good friends from Manhattan, the Rangers have gone 2-4-1, scoring ten goals in seven games. They're dead last in the League in goals per game, have been shutout three times in eleven games and, even more embarrassingly, somehow scored only one goal in a game against the Leafs.
But the floodgates will open at some point. The Rangers, we're repeatedly told, are a better team than their record or offense would seem to indicate, and I'd tend agree (can they really be missing Sean Avery this badly?). Their team defense is fantastic (lead by Swedish backstop Henrik Lundqvist), which means that if they get a lead on you, more often than not, you're toast. They've won 80% of the games in which they've scored first, and every single one in which they've lead after one or two periods, but have lost all six games in which they didn't score the game's first goal. Needless to say, scoring that first goal will be huge.
As for the Caps, they limp into the Big Apple, but it's a limp with a bit of swagger (not unlike that of Mike Jones, who is apparently a pimp who walks with a limp and steps inside Pappadeaux eatin' on shrimp). Anway, the boys from D.C. will almost certainly be without services of their captain, their second-best offensive threat and their power-play quarterback (much to the chagrin of the Ranger faithful), but they should still have enough offense to stay in the game and enough toughness to make things uncomfortable for their hosts. As we saw last time these teams met, the Caps will need to stay out of the penalty box if they want a chance to steal two points on the road, so if the discipline is there along with the intensity and confidence that was on display Monday night in Toronto, it'll be anybody's game.
On an unrelated note, I stopped by Colton Orr's house in Westchester County last night for a little trick-or-treatin', but there was a sign on the door that read "Back in four hours - feel free to wait." I wonder what that was all about.
Why The Rangers Will Win:
"The Rangers are hot! They have a one-game winning streak and have broken the three-goal mark for the fourth time in eleven games this season. They are ready to break out, and the Caps are going to bear the brunt as Jaromir Jagr will take a bite out of his former team (or he would if he had any teeth left)." - Blueshirt BulletinElsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
"The Rangers will beat the Capitals on Thursday because: Henrik Lundqvist is red-hot. He's allowed only 1 goal or less in 4 of his past 5 games. Jaromir Jagr does well against his former team - he has 16 points in 12 games against Washington since the trade and 82 points in 63 games overall. The Rangers penalty killers (4th in the NHL) will stop the Capitals power play unit (20th in the NHL). Finally, the Capitals will also lose because the Rangers rule the Garden - 2.5 GFA at home vs. 0.8 on the road, and 4-2-0 record at home vs. 0-4-1 record on the road. - Rob Abruzzese of Hot Stove New York
"Two reasons why the Rangers will win tonight: (1.) It looks like they're starting to simplify their game in the offensive zone (that's a good thing), and (2) they're playing the Caps (that's a very good thing!)." - The Hockey Rabbi
"The Rangers will rely on Defense and Goaltending if they plan on taking down the Caps Thursday night. Henrik Lundqvist has been very hard to beat in net, and young defensemen like Fedor Tyutin and Dan Girardi have been playing like seasoned vets, Expect them to give Ovechkin and Nylander fits much like they did on October 12th (a 3-1 Ranger win). If the offense decides to show up it can't hurt either." - Blue Shirts on Broadway
Scott Gomez, not surprisingly, wants to be like Michael Nylander.... Some nice national ink (or pixels, as the case may be) for Nicklas Backstrom, who's in the midst of a season-long four-game scoreless streak.... The Bears are stacked at right wing. Good for them, but there doesn't seem to be much there that'll help the big club.... Breaking news: win faceoffs, win games (another positive indicator for the Caps, though it'd be nice if one of their offensive-minded pivots was a little more proficient).... More rankings, with the Caps at 20 and 23....Happy 48th birthday, goalie mask.
- Hart: Jay Pandolfo (3G, including the game-winner, A, +4, 6 SOG)
- Ross: Jay Pandolfo, John Madden (4 points each)
- Norris: James Wisniewski (G, 2A, +3, 3 SOG, 2 hits)
- Vezina: Pascal Leclaire (W, 33 saves on 34 shots against)
- Richard: Jay Pandolfo (3G)
- Calder: Jonathan Toews (G, +1, 4 SOG, 3 hits, 2 blocked shots, 64% faceoffs won)
- Aiken: Johan Holmqvist (L, 5 goals allowed on 27 shots against in 53:24 of work)