Tonight a great and compelling match up will take place between some fierce Metropolitan Division opponents. Monday’s game will be between the Columbus Blue Jackets (35-14-5) and the New York Rangers (36-18-3), which should be an exciting and high scoring affair as the two battle for division dominance.
The Rangers are as of right now fourth in the division, and are coming off a five-game win streak. They’ve won eight of their last 10 games and don’t look to be slowing down. Columbus currently is ranked second in the division, but after that long winning streak they have not been able to find that consistency as easily. They are 8-9-1 since that franchise record 16-game win streak earlier this season. They’re also 17-5 in their last 22 road games and have won five of their last seven games after allowing two goals or less in their previous game.
“There’s some inexperience in this group,” Jackets head coach John Tortorella said to media. “But we have to grow out of that. These are games that a lot of guys are wishing they were playing the last couple years, games that mean something. (We need to) embrace it. We have to go with the attitude that ‘safe is death.’ I don’t want us to be afraid to make a mistake. Let’s take a chance. Let’s make a decision and let’s go. I think we’ll have a much better opportunity to have consistency that way.”
Tonight will be the fourth of their five-game season series and so far New York holds the advantage over the Blue Jackets, both in all-time games (15-10-1-1), and when playing at Nationwide Arena in Columbus (8-7-0-0). If you look back at the heads to head in the last two years, the Rangers have won eight of their last 10 vs. Columbus. It just seems the Rangers have their number.
“We are a confident group,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said pre-game. “We believe in each other we believe we can raise our game when we really have to.”
New York is coming off a convincing win after beating the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday 4-2 which was also Lundqvist’s 400th NHL win. That win made him the 12th goaltender in the league to achieve that record and the first European born goaltender to attain that milestone, so it was a perfect night for the boys in blue.
“His preparation and focus is up there with the top players I’ve coached,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault told media post-game. “He wants to do well and he wants this team to do well. I’m happy he got this done here tonight.”
Lundqvist so far has racked up 26 wins this year, but he is not the only player on New York who is gaining momentum. J.T. Miller is leading the team in points (18-27-45) and is on a six game point streak (2-8-10), with four of the last games being multi-point outings.
Derek Stepan is (12-28-40) has the most points when playing the Blue Jackets and has scored a point in nine of the last 11 games so he is on a roll. Michael Grabner is playing well too for the rangers and is the second ranked player for points against Columbus. He’s scored seven goals and five assists in his last 12, which included a hat trick during New York’s last game at Nationwide Arena Jan. 7, so he will be looking to score in probably what is now his favourite away arena.
Since the All-Star break, Columbus has basically been relying on the play of their most productive line which is centered by Brandon Dubinsky with Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson on the wings. Those three have combined for six goals and eight assists in the six games. Atkinson is fourth overall in the league in goals scored with 27 potted, and is tied for third overall in game winning goals of which he has 6, including a game winner in a 2-1 win Saturday, played against the Detroit Red Wings.
“Dubinsky has cranked it up here,” Jenner said to media. “You can see he’s playing well and making a lot of great plays on both sides of the puck and same with Cam, he got another huge goal for us (against the Red Wings).” Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is also on his game, ranked second in the NHL with 30 wins and tied for sixth in the league with a .926 save percentage. He has stolen his team some games and can shut down an opposing offense quickly.
But even he will probably not be able to stop tonight high-scoring affair, which for bettors will be a great bet to make on the over. Oddsmakers put the Blue Jackets at -130 as money line favorites to beat the Rangers.
The Blue Jackets are really good at home, they’ve won 19 of their last 26 games in Columbus. They’re also 35-17 in their last 52 games overall, and are 21-6 in their last 27 games when their opponent allows two goals or less. But, recently, Columbus is only 1-7 in its last eight games after coming off a win. And that will be something they’ll want to change, and no place is better to do it than home ice.