Off to their best start in franchise history, the Capitals have not struggled against many teams this season. In 31 games, the Caps have only lost six in regulation and only three of those games by more than two goals.
On Sunday the Caps will get a chance to avenge one of those losses as they take on the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden.
The Caps fell 5-2 to the Rangers in the first matchup of the season against the defending Metropolitan champs on Nov. 3. As the team prepares for the rematch, there's one thing they know they must do differently if they hope to win.
"I thought that was one of our worse games of the year actually," Braden Holtby said. "We let their strengths overpower ours in that game. They got a lot of off the rush chances which is what they thrive on."
"Their game's different than ours," Karl Alzner said. "A lot of times we get trapped into playing a little run and gun and trying to make some long-bomb passes like they do and that's not us."
Rather than playing the style of game which has brought them so much success already this season, the Caps allowed the Rangers to dictate they style of play and soon found themselves in a track meet with a team that thrives on quick rushes and counter attacks.
"You get all these scoring chances and [Henrik] Lundqvist makes a bunch of saves and they flip a puck out and they race it down and they score," head coach Barry Trotz said. "They capitalize on chances. ... It's not going to be necessarily what you get on the Rangers, it's what you leave against the Rangers that really hurts you."
One major difference in Sunday's game compared to the first matchup will be the confidence level of both teams. On Nov. 3, the Caps were facing the team that eliminated them from the playoffs the previous year and that had won four of its last five games. Now the Rangers are reeling with 10 losses in their last 13 games while Washington owns the second best record in the NHL.
But that doesn't mean the Caps are going to take them lightly.
"They're a good hockey team," Trotz said. "We know that. If you're going to get through this division then you're probably at some point going to go through the Rangers which we've seen many times as Capitals."
With the season not even half over yet, we are a long way away from determining division supremacy. For many of the players, Sunday's motivation is much simpler than that.
"Motivation for us is just wanting to beat the Rangers," Alzner said. "They're one of the teams that specifically we would like to beat every time we play them and it hasn't worked out great for us in the past so we need a bounce back."
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