The cards, it would seem, are stacked against the Caps tonight. They're playing in a building in which they haven't won since before the lockout (0-5-1), they have nearly half their payroll out of the lineup with injuries and the penalty kill is in a bit of a free-fall, allowing five goals in 15 times shorthanded over the last three games.
On the plus side, the Rangers can't score on the power play (or in any situation, for that matter), and are overachieving thanks to their stud goalie and the rest of their penalty kill. To put a fine point on that last, um, point, Henrik Lundqvist has a far better save percentage 4-on-5 (.915) than Jose Theodore has 5-on-5 (.886). That's not good.
Also not good? That Rangers power play. Sure, 14.7% sounds bad enough, but when you consider that they've only scored 24 extra man goals this season while allowing ten shorties, it's downright abysmal (the Caps, for what it's worth, have a 29-goal differential when on the power play).
Knowing Bruce Boudreau's Caps, they'll rally after Saturday's blowout loss, and given the Rangers' inability to put teams away (a League-leading 14 of their 22 wins have been by a single goal), we should expect a close game, and one that may very well be decided by which team scores first, as the Caps are 16-3-1 (and 46-14-2 since the beginning of last season) and the Rangers 11-3-0 when getting on the board before their opponents.
And so the roller coaster rolls up for one last ride before Christmas, hopefully to bring more thrills and less of that queasy feeling we got this past weekend.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Dig the left sidebar widget on the main page on the upcoming retirement of Mike Gartner's number 11 (and if you've written something you'd like to appear there, let me know).... Does "loose-lipped Russians" mean that Alex Semin let slip a corporate secret when he wondered aloud why the League pushes Sid the Kid so hard, or is it just a lame, mildly xenopobic attempt at humor? Probably the latter, given that the former is no secret.... Speaking of Sid, apparently he's great, but not on track to be "all-time" great.... We've lamented the stupidity of the "fight after a clean hit," and now one of those situations has gone and claimed a Calder front-runner (Scott Burnside has more on the incident). Lame.... A bunch o' weekly Power Rankings are out with the Caps down two to sixth at The Hockey News, up(?) one to sixth at CBSSports.com, down two to sixth at Sportsnet.ca, down three to seventh at TSN.ca, and down three to seventh at ESPN.com.... Ben Clymer and Joel Kwiatkowski may not be KHL All-Stars after all.... On this date back in 2000, Olie Kolzig became the team's all-time leader in wins with his 129th victory, passing Don Beaupre. The 5-3 win over Florida came 17 years to the day after today's Cap of the Day notched the first (and less celebrated) of his two career hat tricks.... My buddy Dobber says to keep an eye on Dmitri Kugryshev at Worlds. The Caps prospect leads all rookies in the Q in scoring and is in the top 20 overall.... Speaking of Caps at Worlds, Stefan Della Rovere: controlled chaos. Love it.... Finally, in this day and age it's impossible to guess what you may or may not stumble upon online on any given day, but if this isn't one of the top five biggest wastes of pixels you read all day, I'll be surprised.