Live conversation as the Capitals finally come back to MSG

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 03: Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals takes a roughing penalty during the second period against Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on May 03, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 03: Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals takes a roughing penalty during the second period against Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on May 03, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

It’s been a long time coming for the New York Rangers.  May 5 was the last time they played the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden and it was a melee.  The Rangers had just fired John Davidson and Jeff Gorton and it was the first outing after the “Tom Wilson” game.  The teams set an NHL record with six fights in the first five minutes of a game and they totaled 100 minutes in penalties in the first period alone.

Will there be an encore in a nationally televised game?  You can be sure that ESPN is secretly hoping for it and everyone is would like to see Ryan Reaves take on Tom Wilson, but based on what happened on opening night, the two teams will probably settle for playing hockey.

To coach Gerard Gallant, that ship has sailed. When asked if it was a consideration for tonight’s game, he said “I really don’t, we never talked about it once…I really think there’s nothing.  It’s another game against a division rival, a division opponent that’s a few points behind us and that’s what’s important.  I don’t think there’s anything there.”

Of course, that’s exactly what you would expect him to say.  It is true, the Capitals are four points behind New York in the standings and the Rangers have two games in hand.

Caps coach Peter Laviolette echoed the sentiment. “We’re ready to play a hockey game. You never know what’s going to happen.  We kind of went through the same thing the first game of the year. It ended up being a good division hockey game. I’m sure it’s going to be competitive and our guys will be ready to play.”

In that first game of the season, the Rangers lost, 5-1, with Alexandar Georgiev in the net. The game was closer than the score and the Blueshirts were in it until midway through the second period. Alex Ovechkin finished the game with two goals and two assists.  The Rangers allowed three power play goals for the only time this season.

Ovechkin has been in a bit of a slump lately with two goals and four points in his last eight games.  This was after he notched 29 goals and 58 points in his first 42 games.  As a result he has dropped to fourth in goal scoring and sixth in points.

Igor Shesterkin will be in net for the Rangers.  He’s 3-1 lifetime against the Capitals with a 2.53 goals against average and .924 save percentage.  During the pandemic he practiced with Ovechkin in Florida and you know that he is determined to keep him off the scoreboard. Ovechkin has one goal in the four games he has faced Shesterkin.

The Capitals are an aging, but potent squad.  They are 12th  overall on offense, averaging 3.25 goals per game (Rangers average 2.94) and  they are even better defensively, allowing 2.75 goals per game, eighth best (Rangers are third at 2.50).   One area where the Caps have not done well is on the power play.  They are scoring 16.1% of the time, 28th in the NHL.  Their penalty kill is a little better at 79%, 17th overall.  The Rangers special teams play is much, much better, fourth on the PP (26.6%) and eighth on the penalty kill (83.2%).

The Blueshirts have to hope that this becomes a battle of special teams.

Projected starting lineups

Dryden Hunt is being returned to play right wing with Strome and Panarin.  That means Goodrow is down to the left wing on the fourth line.  While on the surface the move doesn’t seem to make sense, it may mean that the fourth line with Reaves will be used to match up with the Backstrom line with Wilson on the wing.

Zac Jones was returned to Hartford Wednesday, but was recalled this afternoon and may play as Nemeth’s wife is expecting.   Morgan Barron and Libor Hajek are the healthy scratches, though Gallant said on Wednesday that he expects to see Barron in the lineup very soon.


20 Kreider– 93 Zibanejad –13 Lafrenière
10 Panarin– 16 Strome – 29 Hunt
14 McKegg  – 72 Chytil – 15 Gauthier
21 Goodrow– 17 Rooney – 75 Reaves

55 Lindgren – 23 Fox
79 Miller – 8 Trouba
6 Jones or 25 Hajek – 45 Schneider

31 Shesterkin
40 Georgiev


8 Alex Ovechkin – 92 Evgeny Kuznetsov – 73 Conor Sheary
91 Joe Snively – 19 Nicklas Backstrom – 43 Tom Wilson
24 Connor McMichael –  20 Lars Eller – 77 T.J. Oshie
62 Carl Hagelin- 26 Nic Dowd – 21 Garnet Hathaway

42 Martin Fehervary – 74 John Carlson
9 Dmitry Orlov – 3 Nick Jensen
57 Trevor van Riemsdyk – 2 Justin Schultz

30 Ilya Samsonov
1 Phoenix Copley

While T.J. Oshie and Justin Schultz are listed in the projected lineup, they are both coming off injuries and may not play.  Ilya Samsonov should be in net. He is 1-1-1 lifetime against the Rangers with a 4.07 goals against average and a .855 save percentage.

How to watch and the live conversation

The game will be the first of two straight on national television.  Tonight’s game will be on ESPN, starting at 7pm.  The radiocast will be on ESPN 98.7 FM.   The Rangers have been featured on eight nationally televised game this season and have a 5-3 record.

As usual, Blue Line Station’s live conversation will be up during the game so you can share your thoughts with your fellow Rangers fans.  Whenever the Rangers play the Capitals it’s always worthy of a lot of discussion and this game kicks off a crucial segment of the schedule.  Please join in and post your thoughts in the comments section below.