Pittsburgh might have lost the series opener in OT, but they know they have an excellent opportunity to square this Stanley Cup playoffs series at 1-1 with a victory tonight at the Verizon Center.
The Penguins fired off 45 shots, which was 10 more than Washington, won the faceoff battle (46-39) and had more takeaways (7-5), yet could not convert when they needed to most.
Tonight on NBC at 8:00 Eastern, they will have a chance to even the series and they will have to win a few battles to do.
Sidney Crosby and his line-mates did not have a bad game in watching, however, if bottom line numbers are the story, they were on the ice for three of Washington’s goals and did not put up one themselves. In all, the top line of Crosby, Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary generated seven shots on goalie Braden Holtby, with only one coming from Penguins main focal point. Collectively, they will have to be stronger two-way players.
On defense, Pittsburgh had a few breakdowns they will have to tighten up, but rookie netminder Matt Murray gave his team a chance despite allowing four goals, since it easily could have been as many as seven. The Pens penalty killers continued their excellence and kept the Capitals out of the net in their four tries.
If Pittsburgh’s top line plays better overall and the rest of the team plays the same as Game 1, the Pens have a great opportunity and could be fine choice for NHL picks.
Washington won the first contest in dramatic fashion, yet they realize once a playoff game goes to OT, anything can happen. T.J. Oshie was the star and he was star struck by ringing up a hat trick. “That’s kind of the stuff you dream about when you’re a kid playing in the backyard by yourself is scoring the OT winner and getting a hat trick,” Oshie said.
Besides Oshie, the Capitals first line also did excellent defensive work, particularly Nicklas Backstrom. While the focus coming into the series was Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, they play different positions and it was Backstrom and his line which contained Crosby and his crew and added four points in the contest.
After a somewhat soft goal given up by Holtby, he buckled down, nonetheless, he cannot be expected to face a 45-shot barrage game after game (39 in regulation) against a team like Pittsburgh and hold up. His teammates need to block more shots be in better position to deflect them.
A large storyline coming into this East semi-final was the special teams and though neither scored, it is now a developing story that the Caps are 0-14 on the power play since Game 4 versus Philadelphia. This could be a key factor tonight and when the series shifts to the Steel City.
What to Expect and Winner
With Washington 32-13 SU at home, the NHL odds at Bookmaker have the Capitals at -122. The first conflict was action-packed and really close and little reason to think that will not happen again. The Caps power play is a concern, though their penalty killers have only allowed one score in the postseason.
I think Crosby and his line have a bigger impact on this contest and along with Evgeni Malkin (three goals in past five games), Pittsburgh moves to 13-4 after permitting four or more goals.
Free Pick – Pittsburgh wins