Free NHL Picks: Take Red-Hot Capitals To Win Against Rangers

Doug Upstone

Saturday, March 5, 2016 4:10 PM GMT

If you have been betting hockey like yours truly, the New York Rangers have allowed you to pick up some pretty good cash with your NHL picks of late, winning 10 of their last 14 contests. 

N.Y. Rangers vs. Capitals
Tonight brings a whole different challenge in facing the league's best team in Washington. The difficulty factor has been heighten considerably, having lost in Pittsburgh 4-1 last night and taking on a more rested Washington squad on the road. Will the Rangers be able to muster the energy to knock off the best team and beat the NHL odds boards or does New York defense get pulverized by another Capitals onslaught against them? Let's examine the possibilities for NHL picks.

 

Rangers Defense has to Step Up
New York (37-27 SU) is among the better than average team in the NHL defensively, ranked 12th at 2.52 goals allowed. However in losing three of four this season to Washington and allowing 16 goals in the last three losses, it goes without saying the breakdowns have been significant.

What the Rangers have to do is shrink the ice and not allow Washington to get to preferred spots where they like to pass the puck and pressure defenses. This means the defensemen meeting them at the blue line to force them to dump the puck in and make the Caps players work. If Washington chooses to send the puck in and work the corners to feed the middle, New York quite simply has to outwork them and win those battles to eliminate shots on goal.

On offense, it is immediately finding the right way to use new acquired Eric Staal as a center or right winger. His preference is at center, but coach Alain Vigneault to figure out where he can help the most not only tonight but come playoff time. Staal brings a lot of leadership and wants to add another Stanley Cup to his personal resume.

 

Washington Wants to Get Back to Being Washington
The Capitals are the finest team in the NHL at 47-16 SU, but have played 11 straight contests in which the final outcome was one goal. This is not the Washington team that is first in scoring (3.25) and third in defense (2.30), which has more than half their victories (24) by two goals or more. Frankly, the Capitals have looked stale, with too many slow starts, continually having to come from behind to win and not playing like a dominating club.

Washington has to come with more purpose and again start flashing their depth on offense, which goes beyond just scoring, but having the third and fourth lines outwork their counterparts and force opposing teams like the Rangers to be on the defensive.

Though 21 games remain, the Caps have been a little looser on defense and will want to tighten up this area before the postseason commences no matter whom they would play and setting the right tone and beating New York for a fourth straight time is important if they would meet in late April or May.

 

What to Expect and Winner
Having allowed three goals in 99 seconds, New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist had a meltdown at the end of the second period and decided to fight the cage he was guarding and ended up doing something to his neck, leading to spasms and missed the third period in loss to Penguins. Though expected to be in goal for the Rangers, it was not known early this morning.

If Lundqvist cannot go, Washington probably increases 30 cents on the money line as a home favorite, which only furthers their cause, having won 10 of past 13 against winning teams. Though the Blueshirts are 5-0 following a loss by three or more goals, they are 2-4 in last six playing back to back games and are 1-5 on the road if opponent has .600 percent or better home record.

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Free NHL Pick: Washington -1.5 (+165)
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes