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Caps Eye Challenge in Garden

Posted by Webster Washington on 1/7/2016 5:54:24 AM

The Washington Capitals have climbed just about every mountain they’ve confronted this year. But there’s one pesky little hill left to overcome: the New York Rangers. Last year it was the Rangers who came from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Caps in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. That will no doubt be on the minds of the Caps as the two teams, 1-1 in their season series, meet again in a 1 pm game Saturday in Madison Square Garden. It’ll be tricky figuring the betting odds for this one, but let’s take a look at how they measure up.

Washington Capitals

The Caps are in what they would consider a slump in this latest road trip, losing two of the last three heading into the Thursday game at the Islanders. But they won nine straight before that, and have done everything right in taking a comfortable lead in the Metropolitan Division. They’re second in the league in goals per game (3.2); second in goals allowed (2.2); second in power play percentage (25.8); and sixth in penalty kill percentage (84.2). Star center Alex Ovechkin leads the team with 21 goals, and he’s getting plenty of help from second-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has 37 points. Goalie Braden Holtby is on a 17-0-2 run.

New York Rangers

The Rangers are playing nowhere near that level, getting just four wins in all of December. But they did show some spark on Tuesday, when Derek Stepan scored two goals and Rick Nash had three assists to lead the Rangers to a 6-2 home win over the powerful Dallas Stars. It pushed the Rangers to 22-14-4, with 48 points, a full 13 behind the Caps. They rank fourth in the league in scoring, at 2.9, but are pretty pedestrian in other major categories.

The Betting Odds

The Rangers are 15-5-1 at home, which makes MSG one of the toughest venues for visitors. But that should mean little to the Caps, who are 14-4-2 on the road. Neither should the Rangers’ four-day break, since they are 1-1 when resting three days or more. In their two meetings this year, the teams put up 7 and 10 goals, so an over 5 at a decent price might work. All other factors in the Caps’ favor, if they come up at -120 or better, a simple win wager in the betting odds should work.

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