It is the first of back-to-back games against the Caps and the teams will meet on Wednesday to wrap up the four-game regular season series. The games have been split so far with each club holding their own home ice. Ondrej Pavelec outduelled Philipp Grubauer for 1-0 shootout Ranger win on December 27 at The Garden, while Matt Niskanen scored late in the third period to lead the Caps to a 4-2 victory in D.C. on December 8.
The Rangers lineup has gotten significantly younger as the Rangers first two picks from last spring’s entry draft, Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, will suit up against the Caps this evening. While the franchise would rather be looking at things in preparation for a playoff run, the ability to get a look at what many believe is the future, is the good that you take from the not-so-good. Chytil made the opening night roster out of training camp and lasted just two games before he was sent to Hartford. It was quickly realized that the 18-year-old was in over his head and management quickly made the correct decision by dispatching him to the Wolf Pack. Chytil has shown wonderful offensive instincts and skills. He is not yet NHL strong and that will come.
Sent back to Swedish elite league after camp the 19-year-old Andersson captained his team to a World Junior silver medal before also joining Hartford, Andersson has a grittier style with a more emotional game and doesn’t mind getting involved in the traffic areas of the ice. By all accounts, he is a “glue-guy,” possessing very good leadership skills. Reminds me a little of the pair in Chicago, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and if Chytil and Andersson can come anywhere near to doing what those two have done in Chicago, Ranger fans are in for a real treat. So there are reasons to be excited as the makeover on Seventh Avenue continues.
Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson discuss what they're doing every day to prepare for the NHL, as they gain vital experience in Hartford.
Final point. It hasn’t been since December of 1974 that the Rangers have had a pair of teenagers lace ‘em up in the same game. Who were they you ask? Nineteen-year-old, Ron Greschner, and an 18-year-old Dave Maloney. Where does the time go?
The two-time defending Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals are on the verge of clinching their third straight division crown. They are hoping to put the past two playoff disappointments behind them, having fallen to Pittsburgh in the second round both times despite having the best regular season record. Alexander Ovechkin is once again having a terrific year leading the league in goals with 44. If more attention were paid to John Carlson’s game there would be more talk of him when it comes to the Norris Trophy, emblematic of the league’s best defenseman. Carlson leads all defenders in points with 63. Washington is deep at center, has A-plus goaltending and added some experience on the blueline at the trade deadline. There are lots of ingredients to make a long postseason run. But, hasn’t that sounded familiar when it comes to the Caps come Cup time?
1. Caps and the Lead
When leading at the end of the first period, Washington has a 25-0-1 record. When leading at the end of the second period Washington has a 32-1-0 record. Moral of the story? Don’t let Washington get the lead!
There are not enough bodies on this Ranger roster that have experienced the recent competition between these two franchises up close and personal. Not the case for the Caps. Plenty of Blueshirt-Cap memories on that roster. I would expect them to come with plenty of emotion.
3. Center Ice
Washington is NHL deep and NHL experienced in the middle. The Rangers not so much so. Experience versus youth. In a one-game deal, who knows?