It's the only game on the NHL Playoff slate, but it's a huge one as the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals square off in the Eastern Conference 2nd round.
Face-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET tonight at the Verizon Center in our Nation's District Capital of Washington, D.C.. The question is "Will President Barack Obama be at the game tonight?" All joking aside, this game will be played tight to the vest as the Capitals are a -113 betting favorite according to the NHL odds and the total for the game is listed at 5 goals.
The Capitals surprised the Rangers by taking game 1 in Madison Square Garden and had a possible chance to run away with this series, but the reigning Stanley Cup runner-ups came back in game 2 to defeat the Caps 3-2. The Rangers got off to a quick 2-0 lead in game 2, but superstar, Alex Ovechkin, still managed to make his presence felt with a 3rd period goal that brought the Capitals to within a one goal deficit. The key for the Rangers will be to contain Ovechkin as he's clearly the best player in this game and the best goal scorer in the NHL.
In a playoff matchup such as this, both teams will stick with their 1st string goalies and that gives the Rangers as bit of an edge as the King, Henrik Lundqvist, is in pursuit of his 1st Stanley Cup title. Many consider, Lundqvist to be one of the top 2 goalies in the NHL behind Carey Price and if he can stop Ovechkin, the Rangers can steal a game at the Verizon center and re-gain home ice advantage.
If the Capitals are to win this game, it will be a low scoring affair as Lundqvist hasn't allowed more than 2 goals in a game in his last 5 games. This is a goalie with 339 wins under his belt and well over 100 games over .500 for his career. The only thing missing is Lord Stanley's Cup for Henrik to bring back to his native land of Sweden. Expect Lundqvist to put forth his best effort in a crucial game 3. This isn't a must win situation, but this is a great opportunity for the Rangers after showing some resilience and coming back in game 2.
Braden Holtby doesn't have the experience of Lundqvist and his 4-4 post-season record is nothing to write home about, but this isn't his fault as the Caps are running into very tough defensive teams. For his part, Holtby will keep the Capitals in the game as he carries a 1.78 GAA this post-season. Even with 41 wins this season, one would have to give "The King", Henrik Lundqvist, the advantage in this game where goaltenders are concerned.
The Beast of the East
We can talk about the fantastic season that Rick Nash had for the Rangers and the great post-season that Derick Brassard is having for the Blueshirts in the post-season, but there's one game-changer in this game and his name is Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin is coming off of a 53 goal season and has had 6 seasons of 50 goals or more. Ovechkin has appeared to get his swag back the past 2 seasons with a total of 104 goals.
Thus far in the post-season, Ovechkin has 4 goals and 4 assists in 9 games. We have to remember that he's facing some top level goalies. Against the Rangers, Ovechkin has 2 goals and 1 assist in 2 games. Can he make the big play is the big question as Lundqvist will see in excess of 30 shots on goal?
This is a very tough spot, but I'm going with the team that's been better all season long and my faith is in Henrik Lundqvist. For your NHL picks, take the Rangers as the slight underdog to take game 3 and take control of this series.
NHL Pick- New York Rangers +102 at 5Dimes