The Pittsburgh Penguins (3-3-0) travel to the nation’s Capital today to take on the Washington Capitals (3-3-0) at 7PM at the Verizon Center. Both teams are at 0.500, and are each third in their respective divisions. The Capitals have lost their last 3 games and have been outscored 15-6 in that timeframe. This is in stark contrast to the first 3 games of the season which they won by outscoring their opponents 7-2, and resulted in their best start in five years. The Penguins will be looking to put together 2 consecutive wins for the first time this season, coming off from a shootout win at home last night against the storming Carolina Hurricanes.
The Capitals have only beaten the Penguins once in 8 chances since Sidney Crosby was drafted by the Penguins, and were swept by the Penguins in the 4 games of the 2006-07 season. Sidney Crosby has recorded 14 career points (5G, 9A) in the 8 games against the Caps. Of late, the Capitals defense has been its achilles heel. The Penguins, who have also struggled to find defensive consistency, played an improved defensive game last night against the Hurricanes. The Capitals have gotten pretty good goaltending out of their #1 tender Olaf Kolzig (2-2-0), who is 0.922 with a 2.27 GAA, although he faltered in their game against the Islanders by giving up 5 goals on 21 shots. Kolzig has averaged 4.21 goals against average in his last 9 starts against the Penguins. The Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury (2-3-0) is still struggling with a 0.871 and 4.11 GAA.
Looking at the teams head-to-head, the Penguins have the advantage. The Capitals special teams have struggled of late, giving up 8 goals in their last 20 attempts (60%) at killing penalties, and are 75% overall this season. The Caps power play has also been rendered impotent by the injury to forward Alexander Semin, who has played only 1 game this season. The Caps have only converted on 4 of 32 man-advantage opportunities (12.5%). The Penguins have maintained a 80% penalty kill effectiveness and are 22.2% on the power play. The Penguins have averaged 3.5 goals per game, while the Caps have averaged only 2.2. Over the season, the Caps have averaged 2.8 goals against while the Penguins have averaged 3.8. However, over the last 3 games, the Caps have averaged 5 goals against and the Penguins 4.
Be on the lookout for Alexander Ovechkin who has continued to play well despite the Caps skid. Ovechkin has 6 points (4G, 2A) in 6 games, and has a point in each of the Caps games this season. Ovechkin has 9 points (3G, 6A) in 8 career games against the Penguins.
NHLPens.com Prediction: The Penguins, bolstered by last nights win, will continue to dominate the Capitals by exploiting their weak defense, and struggling penalty killing unit. We are predicting a 4-2 win, and project that Olie the Goalie will prevent this one from being an offensive runaway for the Penguins. Our pick for the most likely goal scorers for the Pens tonight include Jordan Staal (he is way overdue), Evgeni Malkin, Gary Roberts, and Erik Christensen. In honor of Jordan Staal, we are calling this the night of the Gronk.
NHLPens.com will be rinkside tonight and will provide a complete game summary and report tomorrow morning. If you are at the game, look us up. My 10-year old son and I will be in Section 116, Row O, seats 9-10.