New York Rangers face toughest test to date as Washington comes to town

Jim Bay
New York Rangers
Dec 8, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; New York Rangers players celebrate a goal scored by New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) during the first period against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

With respect to the other teams that the New York Rangers have faced so far this season, the biggest challenge is coming to town on Thursday night in the form of the Washington Capitals.

Heading into Wednesday night, the Capitals were currently tied for first place in the revamped East Division. Their 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday was their first in regulation through 10 games and was actually a game they should have won as they blew a three-goal lead for the second straight game.

The Capitals have had some struggles to work through as well, as they had a coronavirus controversy that cost them their captain and a top player in Alexander Ovechkin for four games, along with a $100,000 fine. Their No. 1 goaltender, Ilya Samsonov, and top center in Evgeny Kuznetsov are still in covid-19 protocols with uncertain returns. They have a career right-wing playing center.

In spite of this, the loss against Boston was the first in regulation this season.

As some of in Blueshirt nation are somewhat puzzled by the NHL not naming K’Andre Miller as the Rookie of the Month for January, the winner of that award will probably be in net for the Capitals on Thursday night.

Washington goaltender Vitek Vanecek was recently named the NHL’s rookie of the month. Vanecek went all of January without a regulation loss, going 5-0-2 with a .918 save percentage. But most importantly, he’s been there for the Capitals when they’ve needed him the most as Samsonov sits in the COVID protocol. He also became the 11th goaltender in NHL history to begin his career with a point streak of at least seven games and was the first to accomplish the feat since Mike Condon in 2015.

As highly-touted as Samsonov is, he’s still a young goaltender playing in the best league in the world and the assumption in the off-season was that former Ranger Henrik Lundqvist would be a safety blanket and mentor for Samsonov.

As most already know, that did not happen as Lundqvist had to sit out the season due to a health concern.

The Rangers have their work cut out for them but will get a quick test of whether or not they are ready to consistently compete with the best in the division.

The puck drop is set for 7 P.M. and the game will be telecast on MSG.