One of the game’s premier rivalries takes the ice Sunday afternoon, as the Pittsburgh Penguins (32-14-5, 2nd Metro) visit the Washington Capitals (35-12-5, 1st Metro). Here’s a run-down of what you need to know if you’re planning on betting this game.
Both teams are great offensively and are actually neck-and-neck in most categories. The Penguins are averaging 3.31 goals per game, while the Capitals average 3.6. The shots per game are 32.3 and 32.1 in favor of Washington, while the power play percentage is 20.7 to 20.5 in favor of Pittsburgh.
Defensively, the Pens have a slight edge in goals lowed with 2.73, while the Caps come in with 2.92. They’re also right next to each other with 29.7 and 29.8 shots allowed with the slight edge to Washington. Their biggest difference comes on the penalty kill, where the Capitals have the second-best unit at 84 percent while Pittsburgh is just outside the top-10 at 81.8 percent. Ironically, Washington spends 10 minutes in the box per game, while the Penguins only sit for 7.4 minutes.
We’ll start with Pittsburgh, who is an impressive 9-3 against the spread on the road in their last 12 games. They also have a narrow edge in the rivalry against the Capitals, going 6-5 ATS in their last 11 games in D.C. However, games have been of the lower-scoring variety, as the Penguins have gone over their total just once in the last eight trips to the nation’s capital.
Meanwhile, the Capitals usually take care of business at home, going 7-2 with the odds in their last nine home games. They also do well as favorites, going 16-5 in their last 21 games as the chalk. However, they’re just 3-4 against the Penguins in their last seven meetings, and have gone under in six of 10 versus Pittsburgh.
The Capitals have benefited greatly from the play of their superstar Alex Ovechkin. Named the NHL’s 1st Star of the Month for January, Ovechkin has 13 goals last month to inch closer to 700 on his career. He scored twice on Friday against the Senators, giving him 11 goals in the last five games.
Thanks to Ovechkin, the Caps are continuing their course of having the league’s best record. They have won five of their last six games and seven of their last 10. Furthermore, they’re an impressive 23-9-1 this year against the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the Penguins are just happy to have some key players returning to the lineup. Recently, Pittsburgh has been aided by the return of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Malkin scored once and assisted twice Friday against the Flyers, giving him 53 points in 38 games. The captain Crosby did the same, and now has 28 points in just 23 games.
Their returns have sparked Pittsburgh to a 7-2 record in their last nine contests. They’ve had an even more impressive 15-4-1 stretch over their past 20 games. They have fared poorly against the East though, coming in with a conference record of 12-10-3.
What to Bet
We’ll start with the spread. Now for my money, with the way these two teams have battled for years, expect a close game that comes down to the wire. Give me the Penguins +1.5.
The total currently sits at 6.5, with the over favored at -135. These are two really good offenses, but both can defend, keep pucks out of the net, and kill penalties. I’m siding with a lower-scoring affair, taking the under 6.5 at +115.
Finally, who wins? These teams haven’t played this year, but there is plenty of familiarity between these teams. While Pittsburgh is red hot, coming into Washington is a tough task. Ultimately, the Capitals have slight edges across the board, a strong goaltending situation, and a little bit more health. So give me the Capitals -130 to take the first game of this awesome rivalry.