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Tonight on Versus: Rangers and Capitals going in opposite directions

Dec 28, 2011, 7:32 AM EDT

Ruslan Fedotenko, Michal Neuvirth, Alexander Semin AP

When you look at the turns the Rangers and Capitals have seen this season, it’s crazy to think that both teams were considered Stanley Cup challengers. When they face off against each other tonight (7:30 p.m. ET on Versus) their roles are a bit different. After all, the Caps were the chic pick to make a run at the finals while the Rangers were more of a dark horse. Now those roles are quite different.

The Rangers have won five in a row and 12 of their last 16 games heading into tonight and they’ve been doing it because their superstars have played as such. Marian Gaborik has 22 goals, Brad Richards is playing the part of playmaker to a “T” and Henrik Lundqvist has been lights out in goal. Take those performances and match them up with getting great play from guys like Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan Callahan, and Derek Stepan and you’ve got a team that looks poised to make a deep run in the postseason.

We’re sure John Tortorella can find something to be grumpy about somewhere.

The Capitals, meanwhile, have been a mess. They’ve lost 9 of their last 14 games, have been plagued by brutally inconsistent play all over the ice, and frustrated their fans like crazy. After all, going from a great performance to one where the team looks completely unmotivated makes the Caps look very average.

With as much talent as the Caps have, seeing guys like Tomas Vokoun, Alex Ovechkin, and Alexander Semin all struggle the way they have is maddening and it’s not helping Dale Hunter look like the savior as head coach. A win tonight for Washington would be a nice start for them, but to make it count they have to string them together in bunches. Doing that against this year’s Rangers is asking a lot.

  1. stakex - Dec 28, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    You know, I really don’t know how suprising it is that the Rangers are playing as well as they are. After all, they have a lot of talent up front with Gaborik and Richards, and those guys are augmented with the likes of Stephan and Callahan. Even the Rangers 4th line can be dangerous with Prust and Boyle (even more dangerous when Avery is playing on it). On defense, the Rangers are showing just how deep they are this year while dealing with a lot of nasty injuries to their top four. Given how well their young D developed last season this comes as little suprise. Throw in the fact the Rangers have one of the best goalies in the world, being back up by one of the best backups in the NHL right now… and I really fail to see the shock in the fact the Rangers are currently leading in the East.

    Washington on the other hand, now that is quite a suprise… sorta. If they had a better goaltender I think Washington would have won a few more games this year, but their offense is just stuck in low gear. I guess thats what happens when you take a high powered offense thats built to dominate, and try to force it to play more responsible hockey. It just doesn’t work.

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