Opening Night; Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers

Predicted GoaltenderRecord (Career)GAA / SV% (Career)
Washington CapitalsVitek Vanecek21-10-42.69 / .908
New York RangersIgor Shestyorkin26-16-32.59 / .921

After what has seemed like an impossibly long off-season full of trades, acquisitions, signings, and retirements, we have finally made it to Opening Night. The Washington Capitals are getting set to take on the rivaled New York Rangers in a home opener for the ages, especially considering all that took place between these two teams last season. The Washington Capitals went 36-15-5 in 56 games and the New York Rangers, 27-23-6 overall. Throughout the preseason, the Caps went 2-3-1, and the Rangers, 4-2-0. Washington’s two wins came at the tail-end of the six-game preseason set. Two of the Rangers’ wins came in overtime, both losses were blow-outs; one 4-0 shutout by the Islanders, and a 7-1 a$$ whooping from the Devils.

Tomorrow Night’s Jerseys for both the Capitals and Rangers. Jersey Tracking Sponsored by Cool Hockey.

Final team rosters were due to the league Monday evening. Opening Night Rosters were released Tuesday morning, and can be found below;

Courtesy of Washington Capitals
Sammy BlaisAdam FoxAlexandar Georgiev
Filip ChytilLibor HajekIgor Shesterkin
Julien GauthierRyan Lindgren
Barclay GoodrowNils Lundkvist
Dryden HuntK’Andre Miller
Kaapo KakkoPatrik Nemeth
Chris KreiderJarred Tinordi
Alexis LafrenièreJacob Trouba
Artemi Panarin
Ryan Reaves
Kevin Rooney
Ryan Strome
Mika Zibanejad
New York Rangers

Notably, for Washington, Hendrix Lapierre, the Caps’ first-round draft pick in the 2020 Entry Draft, who had an astounding training camp, made the final cut. That left Connor McMichael seemingly to sit on the outside looking in, as of Monday, he and Beck Malenstyn were reassigned to the Hershey Bears (Capitals AHL affiliate). However, due to Nicklas Backstrom being placed on the long-term injury list, both McMichael and Malenstyn were recalled to the Caps, and are expected to play in the home opener.

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, who had been claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Sabres just days ago, was reacquired by the Capitals on Monday. Sounds eerily similar to the big-brain moves made by GMBM to reacquire Vitek Vanecek after losing him to Seattle in the Expansion Draft, no? In case one forgot, the trade that sent Brenden Dillon to Winnipeg resulted in the Caps’ receiving two 2nd round draft picks in return. One of those draft picks, a 2023 2nd-rounder, was given to Seattle in exchange for Vanecek.

Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov look to be the youngest goaltender tandem in the NHL, and while Vanecek has more than proven his worth and value as a starter, Samsonov has left much to be desired. Especially after all that happened last season.

A handful of Caps are on the radar to have strong seasons and impressive appearances. Anthony Mantha, after joining the Capitals in a blockbuster trade that sent Jakub Vrana to the Detroit Red Wings, put up two goals in his final two preseason appearances, including an overtime game-winner. The power forward also tallied four goals and four assists in 14 games with Washington at the end of last season, and is starting to show how well he fits into the organization. Condolences to Jakub who will miss quite some time with a nagging shoulder injury. Daniel Sprong and Conor Sheary were two of Washington’s most efficient goal-scorers last season, and we predict they’ll continue to rack up the point this year. Sprong nearly tied a career high in goals last year with 13 (in just 42GP) and scored at a rate of 0.31 goals per game, good enough for 3rd on the team. Sheary put up 14 goals in 53 games, and scoring at a rate of 0.26 goals per game, marked the second-highest rate of his career (0.38 across 2016-17 season). 

Nicklas Backstrom was designated to the long-term injury list, and Michal Kempny, who has played just two games since the 2019-20 season, was sent to Hershey as well after clearing waivers. Kempny suffered a number of injuries, all to the left leg, and has since been rehabilitating the leg and working on conditioning. It is possible we will see him back in Washington at some point this season. Alex Ovechkin’s status for the Home Opener is still to be determined after suffering an injury in the Caps’ final preseason game against the Flyers. Ovechkin is listed as day-to-day, but he did participate in the Caps’ optional skate on Tuesday morning.

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The New York Rangers made a number of deals as well, in the off-season and since the start of preseason, including the acquisition of Ryan Reaves from the Vegas Golden Knights, terminating the contract of Tony DeAngelo, signing Filip Chytil to a two-year contract, and most significantly, signing Mika Zibanejad to an eight-year, $68 million-dollar extension, valued at $8.5M per year. Talk about a big pay day for a player who’s averaging 27 goals per season, skewed by an impressive 41-goals-in-57-games showing across the 2019-2020 season. The Ranger’s biggest questions this season is their goaltending; Alexandar Georgiev has been mediocre at best since joining the Rangers, and went 8-7-2 in 2020-21. The year prior, Georgiev tallied 17 wins and 16 losses (2 OTL). Igor Shestyorkin put up 16 wins and 17 losses (3 OTL) last season after winning 10 of 12 starts the year before. 

The Rangers are hoping to see more production from Alexis Lafreniere, New York’s 2020 1st Round Draft pick who was drafted 1st overall. Lefreniere tallied 12 goals and nine assists in 56 games last season. Three of his 12 goals came against the Capitals. Expectations are also high for former 2nd overall draft pick Kaapo Kakko who posted just 9 goals and 8 assists in 48 games played in 2020-21. Rangers’ fans believe 2021-22 will be a breakout year for Kakko. And of course, there’s Artemi Panarin who exceeded a-point-per-game last year with 17 goals and 41 assists in 42 games. His numbers in 2019-20 were even more impressive; 32 goals and 63 assists for 95 points in 69 games, good enough to earn him 3rd in voting for the Hart Trophy. Panarin tallied five power play goals in 2020-21. Defenseman Adam Fox won the 2020-21 Norris Trophy for best all-around defenseman, and is expected to put up huge numbers again to add to his career 89 points and +41 rating in 125 games.

Reaves, who suffered a leg injury in New York’s 6-2 preseason win over the Devils, is listed as day-to-day, but was practicing with the team as of Monday. Similarly, Ryan Strome is also day-to-day, and his status for Wednesday, too, is undetermined. 

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The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers will play on Wednesday October 13th, at 7:30 EST, and can be watched on TNT.

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