The New York Rangers have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. For the first time in 15 years, the Rangers will be playing in a game that essentially means nothing. Now, this does not come of shock since many knew what was happening after the trade deadline occured, but this is a surreal moment for some Ranger fans as they now will not be watching hockey come mid-April for the first time in nearly 13 years. The Rangers were eliminated after the Devils won Tuesday night over the Hurricanes. Instead of talking about some of the bad news the Rangers have brought their fans this year, some of positives like…
Rangers bright spots…
Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil have been recalled and played last game vs Washington. Andersson buried his first NHL goal, marking him the youngest rookie in Rangers history to score his first goal with the club. Chytil recorded an assist for his first NHL point. Ryan Lindgren signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers and has been assigned to the Hartford Wolfpack. Alexander Georgiev seems to be the probable back up next season, and the other Russian goaltender they have Igor Shestyorkin seems to be getting the call to Hartford next season and making a run at the starting spot soon. Kevin Hayes looks to be a scorer all of sudden now. The Rangers centers will look a little like, Ryan Spooner, Lias Andersson, Vladislav Namestkiov over the next several years. Also, the Rangers may be fortunate enough to receive a top-10 pick and also possibly another big-time free agent this offseason.
Anyways, the Rangers will face the Washington Capitals in a meaningless game for them but a game that has a lot of playoff implications for the Capitals. The Capitals sit atop the Metropolitan division with 97 points, and a win tonight marks them one point closer to securing a sure playoff spot. Although Washington is in the playoffs right now they have not officially “clinched” a playoff spot. They come off a game in New York vs the Rangers, where they won 4-2, scoring four goals in the first period.
Quick recap of last game Rangers vs Washington (March 26)
The first period consisted of a quick Washington goal coming from TJ Oshie who was left all alone coming down the right-hand side to sneak one past Georgiev. The Capitals would then score another goal three minutes later, off a Matt Niskanen doorstep goal. Niskanen was left all alone in front with two Rangers forwards around the net, as the Rangers defense was nowhere to be found. The shots kept coming as the Capitals were awarded a power play and yes, it happened exactly how you thought, a one-time rifle shot from Alex Ovechkin from the top of the left circle for his 45th of the year. The first and final goal for Washington came off Evegny Kuznestov stick during a Rangers power play, a breakdown and Rangers blunder left them 4-0 after the first.
The Rangers would score one in the 2nd off Lias Andersson stick for his first as a Ranger and his NHL career, off a feed from Jimmy Vesey from behind the net. The third would open with a Rangers goal 4 minutes in off a wrist shot from in close by Mats Zuccarello for his 16th, giving thanks to Filip Chytil and Rob O’Gara as the helpers.
That would be the game, Rangers suffering 33 shots on net, taking three penalties, six giveaways and an extremely flat and slow start, left the Rangers out early, with very little chance of coming back.
Capitals shining stars
The Capitals offense is led by the one and only 32-year-old Russian gunslinger, Alex Ovechkin, who is nearing in on an 85 point season, but on the year has 45 goals, 38 assists, and 83 points. Ovechkin’s highest assist marker in 7 years, a player who is known to be a goal scorer and shoot the first guy is dishing the puck along with burying it from all cylinders of the ice. To supplement Ovi, his other Russian counterpart, Evgeny Kuznetsov is having a career year with 75 points in 73 games, tallying a career-high 24 goals. On the back end, the Capitals are enjoying the Norris like season from soon to be free agent John Carlson, who has tallied 64 points in 79 games, with 15 goals and 49 assists and four game-winning goals. Even with Braden Holtby posting 3.03 goals against in 50 games played and a .906 save percentage, the Capitals still have been a top ten NHL team all season.
Starters for tonight
This game comes just a day apart, the real difference we will see in tonight’s matchup are the goalies in net. Last game showed Alexander Georgiev for New York and Phillip Grubauer in net for Washington. But, tonight the Rangers are going back to Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist has started in four games since March 2, he has been sidelined due to rookie goaltender Georgiev seeing more time and getting situated with NHL play but the Rangers feel comfortable throwing in the cold goaltender against another cold goaltender. As Braden Holtby will be the other netminder, who has not seen regular time due to some lingering injuries. But Holtby has started in five games dating back to February 25.
This matchup is to be aired on NBCSN once again, and the Capitals-Rangers series may not have that same fire to it as it usually does, with the Rangers down and out and the Capitals clearly the better team, this matchup, game 77 of the 2017-2018 regular season will mark the first time in a long time a Rangers vs Capitals game technically means nothing.