It was only two seasons ago the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals squared off in the Eastern Conference semifinal, but both franchises have looked like anything but Stanley Cup contenders. And you have to assume change is coming on their horizons.
The Capitals and Rangers have played a combined 13 games this season. They have four wins in those games – and one of them came only because the two teams played each other Wednesday night in D.C.. The Blueshirts’ 2-0 victory was only its second of the season and should be no great source of pride coming over a Caps squad that managed just six shots on a previously struggling Henrik Lundqvist in the second period and 22 shots on the night.
If anyone is still doubting that Washington has to look at serious change – and not just on the roster, either – the doubters ought to be doubted. The Capitals are fast-approaching a crossroads, if they’re not already there. The longer ownership denies it, the more things could resemble the Calgary Flames’ post-2004 Jarome Iginla Era.
By the same token, the Rangers also are facing serious questions about this team’s immediate future. Their offense remains rather awful (11 goals in six games) and the roster shakeup that began with the waiving of forward Arron Asham and backup goalie Martin Biron almost certainly will continue if head coach Alain Vigneault doesn’t follow up Wednesday’s win with a streak of four or five more victories. They still have three more road games before finally heading to Manhattan for their home opener Oct. 28 – and two of those three games are against Metro division opponents (New Jersey and Philly) they absolutely have to beat to get back to the thick of the playoff hunt.
The Rangers and Capitals came into the season as veteran teams with big expectations. However, after nearly 10 percent of the regular season has passed, they’re much closer to a top draft pick slot than a post-season berth. Is it a coincidence both teams have two of the longer-tenured NHL GMs? Maybe. You would hope accountability would factor in at some point.
If it doesn’t, it we won’t likely see the Caps and Rangers face off again in the playoffs – or appear in the playoffs – for some time to come.