Washington Capitals at New York Rangers Betting Preview

In the East Division, the Washington Capitals have battled their way into the top-three, as they aim to return to the playoffs once again. On Thursday, they’ll head to Madison Square Garden to play the New York Rangers, who sit in last-place but have lots of young players to build around.

Here’s a preview of the first matchup of the year between the Capitals and Rangers, all leading to a free betting pick. Despite the gap in the standings between these teams, this game is considered a pick ’em on several different sportsbooks.

By the Numbers

Both Washington and New York have showcased an ability to score, but one is getting significantly more puck luck than the other. Despite the Capitals averaging just 27 shots on goal to rank in the bottom-five, their 3.7 goals per game is the third-most in hockey. Meanwhile, the Rangers are only averaging 2.78 goals per game but have the fourth-most shots per game with 32.6.

The power play has been another reason for the difference in scoring, with Washington’s 40.9 percent second in hockey compared to a 15.8 percent success rate for New York.

On the other side, New York has been better across the board. The Rangers are giving up 2.78 goals, 14th in the NHL, and sit inside the top-10 with 27 shots allowed per game. Comparatively, the Caps give up 3.2 goals on just-under 33 shots, ranking 23rd and 27th, respectively. New York has the slightly-better penalty kill as well, earning the 79.4 percent to 77.8 percent edge.

Capitalizing on Chances

The Capitals were one of the teams to get hit early with COVID-19, taking away key players like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. But their absences have forced others to step up and contribute.

Left wing Jakub Vrána is one who has elevated his play this year, accumulating eight points while playing in all 10 of Washington’s games. Vrána is third on the team in points behind Nicklas Backstrom with 13 points and John Carlson with 11. Those three have stepped up in the wake of Ovechkin and Kuznetsov missing time; however, Ovechkin finally returned last Saturday against Boston.

Another player who has been out due to COVID-19 was goaltender Ilya Samsonov, as Washington’s starting netminder has been out since January 17th. So in his absence, rookie Vitek Vanecek has started the other eight games, going 5-1-2 with a 2.94 GAA and .912 save percentage.

Strange Rangers

If you look at the Rangers season at face value, you’ll see six losses to only three wins. Now consider that all but one of those losses, which came in the first game of the season, were by one goal, and it’s fair to say that New York’s strange could be looking a lot different if a puck or two bounced a different way.

One relatively normal thing is the production of Artemi Panarin. A season after being a Hart Trophy finalist, Panarin is once again off to a great start with a team-high five goals and seven assists. You then have to go a long way down before the second-highest scorer, Pavel Buchnevich, shows up at seven points and defenseman Adam Fox at six points.

A massive boost to the Rangers would come from point production from Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo Kakko, and Alexis Lafrenière. After eclipsing 40 goals in a shortened season last year, Zibanejad has just a single goal and assist. Meanwhile, former second overall pick Kakko and last October’s number one overall pick Lafrenière have a combined three goals and zero assists.

Final Thoughts & Pick

If the Caps were at full strength, they definitely would not be sitting at even odds with New York for Thursday’s matchup. But the fact of the matter is that Kuznetsov and Samsonov’s potential unavailability levels the playing field a bit against a Rangers team that has been getting good production in net from Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev and a bit of bad luck on the offensive end.

However, the Capitals are still the pick here. They were scoring even before Ovechkin returned to the lineup, and New York just hasn’t had the offense from the youngsters yet that they need to win consistently. Give me Washington on the road to make it four wins in their last five games.

Betting Pick: Washington Capitals (-110).

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