One of the best rivalries in the National Hockey League is renewed on Sunday when the Washington Capitals travel to the Pittsburgh Penguins (3pm ET; TV: Live on NBC).
The Capitals are currently sitting in third place in the East Division while the Penguins are in fifth place and on the outside looking in if the playoffs were to start today. How will this game work out and what will our predictions and betting picks be? Read on for our preview.
The two bitter rivals have played twice so far this season. Pittsburgh won both games and both went to overtime. One was settled in overtime with a 5-4 victory and the other was a 4-3 shootout win.
These two teams always seem to play each other so competitively. The Capitals will look to get their first win against the Penguins on Sunday and their first since January 7th when they beat the Bruins in overtime. Since then they have lost three straight and then had their next three games postponed due to other team’s COVID protocol.
The Caps haven’t played a game in a week. Will they come out slightly rusty or will the veteran team be well rested to face their division rival? They will still be without starting goalie Ilya Samsonov due to COVID protocol. He is the only player that has yet to be removed from the list. The reserve goalies have been less than stellar in his place. Vitek Vanecek has managed to pick up five wins and only two losses, but he has given up an average 3.18 goals per game in his 10 starts. His backup Craig Anderson has only appeared in one game and gave up two goals one eight shots.
The Penguins’ goalies haven’t been that much better. Starting goalie Tristan Jarry has struggled for much of the season and is allowing 3.95 goals per game in his seven starts. His backup, Casey DeSmith, has been much stronger with a 2.84 goals against average. DeSmith got his fourth win of the season in a shootout against the Islanders on Thursday. He allowed three goals but was able to shutdown the Isles in the shootout, stopping all three of their attempts. With DeSmith making the latest start they may turn to Jarry on Sunday. Either way I think the Caps are poised to get their first win against the Penguins on the year and their seventh on the season.
The Washington Capitals’ offense is one of the best in the NHL and the Penguins are missing several key defenders. They currently have three defenders on the injury reserve list, which has been hurting them for much of the year. The Caps rank third in the NHL and score 3.58 goals per game on average while the Pens’ defense ranks 28th and allows 3.67 goals on average.
I think the layoff will be a benefit for the veteran Washington team. I think the rest is more important and I am not worried about the rust factor. They have had several key players dealing with injuries and look to be at relative full strength. One key player’s status to keep an eye on is forward TJ Oshie who is listed as day-to-day. Even if Oshie isn’t able to go, the Caps have plenty of offense to exploit a bad Pittsburgh defense and I don’t think the Penguins’ offense has enough to keep up. They rank 20th in the NHL and only score on average 2.83 goals per game.
Our Preview’s Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins Predictions & Picks Verdict
Due to the relatively lackluster goalie play on both sides I think this is going to be a high scoring affair. I was initially looking at the total to go over, but the Penguins’ mediocre offense had me second-guessing. The over/under at 6.5 goals felt a bit high, but I can certainly understand it with a strong Capitals’ offense and subpar goalies on both teams. This ultimately led me to taking the Capitals as slight road underdogs. I would much rather trust the stronger offense despite the weeklong layoff. So this is the one prediction and pick for this game: