#55 Pittsburgh Penguinsvs.#56 Washington Capitals
Written by Valdis Pans
Pittsburgh Penguins (26-8-4-1) vs. Washington Capitals (26-9-1-4)
When: 8:00 PM ET, Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Where: Verizon Center, Washington, District Of Columbia
Lines: Pittsburgh +105 / Washington -125
On the back of six straight victories, the Washington Capitals (3rd in Metropolitan Division) will be all too confident to face division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins (2nd in Metropolitan), who have gone on a five game winning spree themselves…
The Pittsburgh Penguins (26-8-5) continued their fine form with their fifth straight victory on Sunday, finishing off a 3-game homestand on a high (3-0-0), taking their recent points’ out-turn to just one regulation loss in past 16 contests (13-1-2). The Pens were brilliant again during their latest 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, especially in the third period, which saw Pittsburgh light up the lamp on no less than four occasions. In fact, the Penguins have now outscored their opponents 56-25 in third periods, proving once again just how deadly they are at finishing games. Conon Sheary (10 goals, 24 points for the year so far), Eric Fehr (5 goals, 7 points), Chris Kunitz (4 goals, 17 points), Scott Wilson (5 goals, 11 points), Phil Kessel (13 goals, 39 points) and Kris Letang (3 goals, 22 points) all netted for Pittsburgh.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves to win his fifth straight fixture and seventh of his past eight games (7-0-1). He is 13-5-4 for the current campaign with a 3.07 GAA and has gone 20-11-2 against Washington with a 2.56 career GAA. The Penguins are comfortably sitting 2nd in the NHL with 57 points from 39 games, despite having an unconvincing 8-6-3 road record. They are netting the highest amount of goals per game in the league (3.51), allowing the 13th highest amount defensively (2.77 per contest). Pittsburgh has the 4th best power play crew with a respectable 22.6% success rate, but ranks just 22nd in penalty kill with a pretty weak 79.8% effectiveness.
Top goaltending and defensive prowess excelled for both teams at Bell Centre on Monday, when the Washington Capitals (26-9-5) proved to be a tad too hard to swallow for the hosting Montreal Canadiens, winning the contest 4-1 at the very end. It was the Alex Ovechkin Show all along, with the 31-year-old Russian tying Maurice “Rocket” Richard for 544 NHL goals during the night, notching up 999 career points as well with a little help from two assists he provided along the way. Ovechkin has 19 goals and 33 points for the year so far. Nicklas Backstrom (10 goals, 34 points this season), Evgeny Kuznetsov (5 goals, 27 points) and Brett Connolly (5 goals, 6 points) also found the back of the net.
Braden Holtby failed to become the first Washington goalie to register three shutouts in a row, allowing a goal 7:18 minutes into the third period, ending his shutout streak at 169:12. He is 19-8-4 for the current campaign with a 1.90 GAA and has gone 6-7-2 against Pittsburgh with a 2.59 career GAA. The Caps are currently 3rd in the NHL with 57 points from 40 games and have a strong 15-5-1 home showing. They are averaging the 7th highest amount of goals netted per game (2.85), allowing the absolute lowest quantity in their defensive zone (just 2.00 per contest). Washington is 19th in power play with a disappointing 16.9% success rate and ranks 3rd in penalty kill with an imposing 86.8% efficiency.
A clash like this one is what hockey was made for. Two NHL giants squaring off against each other in a division battle, both great defensively and deadly on the offense. Pittsburgh won their sole home outing so far this season 3-2 after a shootout, while the Capitals didn’t hold back in Washington, beating the Pens to a pulp in a 7-1 rout. Alex Ovechkin is just a point shy of 1,000 NHL points. He will make sure he gets them…
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Valdis got his first ever article published when he was 13, and has rarely stopped. He has worked for FHM, MTV Baltics and has done loads of freelance (from columns for Cosmopolitan magazine to helping with organization of Macy Gray’s shows in the Northern Europe). Speaks five different languages, loves pizza, American Horror Story and pipe organ music, and knows European soccer better than dates of his family members’ birthdays. Is an avid fan of ice-hockey too. He is a Latvian after all...