The Washington Capitals making the playoffs this season now seems like an unlikely dream. They currently sit sixth in the Metropolitan Division with six games left in their season. They’ll need to go on a six-game winning streak if they want any chance at stealing the last playoff spot in the division, but their back-to-back losses against the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t help their cause whatsoever.
The New York Rangers have clinched a playoff spot and at this point are playing to try and get home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. This will be their fourth and final matchup against each other this season and the Rangers will be looking to even the season series having dropped two of their first three meetings earlier in the year.
The Capitals are nice and rested after two days off, while the Rangers have only had a day off. Both teams will be well-rested so it should be a good battle from start to finish. While the season seems like a write-off, there is no reason to pack it in and not play for pride to finish out the year.
Notes/Keys To The Game
The Capitals have not been playing strong hockey as of late and it shows in the results of their recent games. The key to keeping up with a dangerous Rangers team will be to play a full 60 minutes and focus on doing the little things right. Winning puck battles and finishing hits will be among the key points discussed in the dressing room before the game.
The Capitals have been getting solid goaltending all season from Darcy Kuemper so they have nothing to worry about between the pipes, but they have struggled with consistency in their depth on the blue line. They’ll have to focus on playing a strong defensive game all through the lineup if they want a chance at beating one of the league’s hottest teams.
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Shutting down the Rangers’ power play will be another key to winning, as they’ve been red hot as of late. The Capitals will also need to continue their strong play on their own power play. Igor Shesterkin is one of the league’s best goalies at the moment so he’ll be hard to beat, but getting a man advantage and generating a lot of shots on goal will be key to forcing the puck past him.
Expected Lineup Changes/Goalie Matchups
The Rangers have been playing solid as of late, so I don’t expect any movement in their lineup as they look to continue their strong play going into the playoffs. The Capitals could try a few new combinations on the back end and in the forward group, but I wouldn’t expect anything major, maybe just a few tweaks if they want to experiment.
The goaltending matchup is expected to be Kuemper versus Shesterkin, which will be a goalie battle for the ages. Shesterkin is one of, if not the best goaltender in the league while Kuemper has been extremely good on a weaker Caps team, but is coming off of a Stanley Cup. This could be a really fun matchup to watch.
While the Rangers have more to play for, the Capitals need to show they are still a team that can contend and make it back to the playoffs as early as next season. This should just be a one-off year where they almost made it because they were retooling, and they should prove they’re ready to come back strong next season with their play to finish out the year. There is no excuse for a weak game against the Rangers.