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The Pittsburgh Penguins have knocked the Washington Capitals out of the postseason in each of the last two years and they will look to get off to a good start in this one when they head to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., on Thursday evening, for game one of this best-of-seven series between Metro Division rivals. These teams split the four meetings this year. Goalie Probables: The Penguins will be sending out Matt Muray and the Capitals will counter with Braden Holtby.
Pittsburgh Takes Down Philly In Six
The Pittsburgh Penguins are defending two-time Stanley Cup champs and they are one step closer to returning to the finals. They come in off a series with the Flyers and they won that series in six games. The offense was key for them in that series as they scored 25 goals in the four wins, but just three total goals in the two losses. In the final game, they broke open close conted in the 3rd period to win byb a score of 8-5 and scoring in the win was Sidney Crosby, which was his 6th in the series and 35th of the year, Carl Hagelin, which was his 2nd of the series and 12th of the year, Patric Hornqvist, which was his 2nd of the series and 31st of the year, Bryan Rust, which was his 3rd of the series and 16th of the year and Jake Guentzel, who scored four times in the game and he had six in the series and now has 28 on the year. The Pens have now gone 31-15 over their last 46 games. Pittsburgh has gone 20-24 on the road and they have averaged 3.16 gpg and have allowed 3.27 gpg in those games.
Getting the nod for the Penguins in this one will be Matt Murray, who was 4-2 with a 2.20 GAA and a .911 save percentage during the first round and is now 26-11 with a 1.99 GAA and a .926 save percentage in the postseason in his career. During the regular season, Murray was 27-19 with a 2.92 GAA and a .907 save percentage overall, including 10-12 with a 3.05 GAA and a .896 save percentage on the road. In his career (Regular season), he has gone 4-4 with a 3.66 GAA and a .882 save percentage against the Capitals.
During the playoffs, the Penguins have been very good on offense as they come in ranked 1st in scoring at 4.67 gpg, while also ranking 12th in shots taken (30.7 spg) and 8th in power play conversions, converting on 20.0% of their chances. At the defensive end of the ice, they have been above average, during the playoffs as they come in ranked 7th in goals allowed, giving up 2.50 gpg, while also ranking 1st in shots allowed (24.7 spg) and 3rd in penalty kill, allowing teams to convert on 9.5% of their chances.
Can The Caps Get Past The Penguins
The Washington Capitals come in as the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference after winning the Metro Division for the 3rd year in a row. The Playoffs did not start well for them as they as they lost both games to the Blue Jackets at home, but they rallied and won the last four games in that series. Now comes the really tough part for the Capitals as they are facing the Pittsburgh Penguins, who knocked them out of the 2nd round of the postseason in each of the last two years. This could be a mental thing if the Caps fall behind early in the series, so it is imperative for them that they take game one. Last year, the Pens took the series in seven games and the year before they won in six. The Capitals have not made it out of the 2nd round in each of the past three seasons and they have not made it to the Stanley Cup Finals since the 1997/98 season. The Capitals have gone 29-15 here at home for the year and they have averaged 3.34 gpg and have allowed 2.61 gpg in those games.
The Caps will be sending out Braden Holtby in this one and he was 4-1 with a 1.92 GAA and a .932 save percentage against the Blue Jackets in their opening series and is now 33-31 with a 1.99 GAA and a .932 save percentage in the postseason in his career. During the regular season, he was 34-20 with a 2.99 GAA and a .907 save percentage overall, including 22-9 with a 2.41 GAA and a .921 save percentage here at home. Holtby has gone 8-11 with a 2.90 GAA and a .911 save percentage against the Pens in his career (Regular season).
The Capitals come into this game ranked 2nd in scoring during the postseason at 4.00 gpg, while also ranking 1st in shots taken (37.2 spg) and 1st in power play conversions, converting on 33.3% of their chances. At the defensive end of the ice, during the postseason, they have been a bit below average so far as they come in ranked 9th in goals allowed, giving up 3.00 gpg, while also ranking 8th in shots allowed (32.7 spg) and 7th in penalty kill, allowing teams to convert on 16.7 % of their chances.
- 2-9 in their last 11 after scoring five goals or more in their previous game
- 75-32 in their last 107 home games vs. a team with a losing road record
- 51-24 in their last 75 vs. a team with a winning record
The Caps have played the Penguins tough in this series the last two years, but still, they failed to take them down. Will this season be any different? I don’t know how the whole series will go, but It is imperative that the Caps get off to a fast start and I will look for them to do so in this one. They lost the first two games in the series with the Blue Jackets but won the last four and that momentum should help them here against the two-time defending champs. The Penguins had a tough series with the Flyers and their offense has been very good in the postseason so far, but the Braden Holtby had a 1.92 GAA in that first round series and he should keep the Pittsburgh offense at bay in this one. Look for the Caps to take game one.