Capitals vs. Rangers Pick – NHL March 29th

The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers continue toward important territory as the season nears its conclusion. The Rangers don’t have to worry about a playoff spot, but are trying to earn 1st place honors for home ice advantage in the playoffs. With the Rangers losing and the Canadiens winning yesterday, it gives the Habs a 1 point lead in the Eastern Conference. If the season ended today the Anaheim Ducks would own home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Finals if they made it that far. The Ducks have proven in the past that they are a wrecking ball during the regular season, and then when the playoffs come around, decide to cut their year short with an early exit. Will it happen again this time around? We shall see, but I know not many people are going to have faith putting them in the finals. As far as the Rangers, there will be plenty of people having them going all the way. Cam Talbot has kept them afloat for about a month now and now with Henrik Lunqvist back in the fold, it will be interesting how they handle the goalie situation, especially given how poorly Henrik played in his return last night against the Bruins.

Boston was able to knock the Rangers off last night with a 4-2 win. Henrik was definitely rusty which goes without saying. I suspect he will be fine going forward and it isn’t too much to get alarmed about. But give credit where credit is due, and Talbot deserves all of that. Not only did Talbot hold the Rangers together, but they excelled with him in net. If he comes back today and has a strong game, the plot will thicken, and the decision to keep him on the bench will be more difficult. At the of the day though, Lundqvist is still one of the best goalies in the NHL with the a history of playing in the playoffs. Look for him to be in net then.

Washington Capitals @ N.Y. Rangers

For today we know that Talbot is getting the nod in net. The Rangers are playing on a back-to-back, so this is pretty typical of them to go to Talbot today. Over exerting Henrik at this point isn’t going to do anyone good. Having the luxury of a competent backup certainly serves the Rangers well. I haven’t looked into Talbot’s contract, but I would think if he keeps this up he’ll be looking for some money when his contract expires. At 20-8-4 and a 2.16 GAA, if he keeps that up a lot of money will be coming his way. However, we definitely need a bigger sample size to say if he is for real. Additionally, he does have the benefit of playing behind the Rangers’ defense. Defensively the Rangers are 2nd in the NHL, allowing an average of 2.26 goals against per game. Ahead of them is the team that is ahead of them in the standings, the Montreal Canadiens.

Conversely, the Caps have one of the more underrated defensive units in the NHL, I believe. Ovechkin this and Ovechkin that, but when it comes down to it, their defense is the real winners on this team. The Capitals enter today 7th in the league in goals allowed per game with 2.43. Currently penciled into the 7th seed, the Caps would be playing the Rangers if the playoffs begin today. This could be a playoff preview for sure. The Caps and Rangers have a history of getting into low-scoring playoff type games. Note that the UNDER is 7-2-1 in their last ten meetings. Looking at a larger sample size, the teams lean to the UNDER at 15-3-8 in their last 26 games. After a poor defensive showing yesterday from the Rangers, look for them to bounce back.