NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the New York Rangers at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
It’s safe to assume the New York Rangers didn’t envision the start of the season like this. Through their first five games, all on the road, they have just one win (1-4-0). In those losses they’ve allowed an average of six goals per game including a 9-2 loss to San Jose that saw rookie Tomas Hertl score four times.
For new head coach Alain Vigneault, it’s been a rough introduction to life as the Rangers’ boss. More importantly, it’s been a disturbing start for star goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist sporting a goals-against average over 4.00 and a save percentage under .900 will give anyone’s head a shake and worse still, they’ll be hurting for offense with Rick Nash out with a concussion. That sets up for a potential rough night against a Capitals team that has reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin leading the way.
Ovechkin’s start to the season has been strong having scored six goals with nine points through the team’s first six games. Centers Nicklas Backstrom (8) and Mikhail Grabovski (6) have been right there with Ovechkin on the point production as well.
Goaltending hasn’t been Washington’s strong point to start the season either, but they’ve had better production with 17 goals compared to New York’s 10. If nothing else, that puts the onus more on Lundqvist to play strong tonight to save his team from yet another road loss. With Brad Richards and Derek Stepan providing the only consistent offensive punch, King Henrik will need to seize the throne.
These two teams have met in the postseason in four of the past five seasons. They should have each other’s strengths and weaknesses down pat.
Update (12:20 p.m. ET)
Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto is out with the flu. John Moore will reportedly take Del Zotto’s spot on the power play.
By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.
You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.
Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.
Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.
The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.
The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.
Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:
The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.
Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.
The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.
(Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)
While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.
Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?
Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.
He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.
(Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)
The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.
While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.
With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.
Click here for the livestream.