The East division of the NHL has certainly been a fascinating one through the first month or so of the new season. Though there have been many COVID-related issues, the hockey has still been fantastic, and in a division where all eight teams are so closely packed together, it’s created a playoff-style intensity to each and every game.
Thursday evening will likely prove to be no different as the New York Rangers will host the Washington Capitals in an eerily empty Madison Square Garden.
The Capitals enter as one of the more fascinating teams in hockey right now. They’re sporting a stellar 6-1-3 record, despite having many key players be forced out of the lineup of late due to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. As players start to filter back into the regular rotation, it will be interesting to see if Washington can continue with their same momentum.
The Rangers were seen as a trendy team to take that ‘next step’ in 2021, but a tough division has seen tough results thus far. They’ll enter Thursday night boasting a 3-4-2 record, though perhaps with the Tony DeAngelo distraction behind this team, this is a Rangers group that can and should be improving. A comfortable Monday night victory over the pesky Penguins has this team finally trending in the right direction.
With the Rangers currently toiling in last-place in the competitive East division, the urgency has already seeped into their squad. The Caps are already seven points up on New York, and that discrepancy should breed even more intensity for Thursday evening. Continue reading on beneath the posted odds for further insight and analysis for what promises to be a great matchup on the ice.
Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers Betting Odds:
Washington Capitals (-110)
@ New York Rangers (-110)
Over 6 (-120)
Under 6 (+100)
*Betting odds provided by BetOnline.ag
Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers Pick:
Despite the Rangers’ slow start, signs are emerging that this talented group is starting to emerge from a slump to begin their campaign. New York turned in a stellar showing on Monday vs. a talented Penguins side, controlling shots and scoring chances throughout. This is a club with a talented defense corps, and elite-level scoring balanced between their top-3 lines. They should be better, and they’re trending in the right direction.
The Caps meanwhile have put together a wildly impressive start, but there has been a lot of good fortune involved in that. They’ve feasted on lesser competition, and even in matches where some top pieces were out of the lineup due to COVID-19 protocol, some impressively unsustainable goaltending from backup Vitek Vanecek has propelled the Caps’ success.
Washington has been getting routinely outplayed at 5v5, and sit third-last in the NHL in their expected goal percentage at even strength. It’s quite the miracle that they have as many points as they do. They enter Thursday evening still a decimated group, as Ilya Samsonov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Lars Eller, Justin Schultz, and Connor Sheary all remain out. Those are tough pieces to replace, and New York should be able to take advantage.
While New York will likely be without Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko up front, this is still a skilled and talented forward corps which should be able to generate some chances. Artemi Panarin will relish the opportunity to face-off against Alexander Ovechkin, while Mika Zibanejad’s top line and Alexis Lafreniere’s third-line offer impressive scoring depth that should wear down the Caps.
In goal, youngster Igor Shesterkin has started to find his game and the talented Russian netminder will certainly be key to any Rangers’ success in 2021. If he continues his stellar play, this is a New York group that is talented enough to really vault up the standings. Look for the Blueshirts to take advantage of a depleted Caps’ squad, en route to another convincing victory. Don’t be fooled by Washington’s early success, back the Rangers on Thursday night.