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Game Preview: Penguins @ Capitals 10/11/2017

The Penguins are in DC to take on the Capitals. Here’s what you need to know ahead of this early season grudge match

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone in the ever-expanding blog and sports-media world has game recaps, but previews could possibly be under-served. So for a while (perhaps longer if it’s well-received and traffic’d) we’ll play around with game previews.


Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1-1) @ Washington Capitals (2-0-1)

When: 7:30 PM Eastern, NBC Sports

History: The teams split the 4 regular season games last year, with the Caps going 2-0-2 and their losses coming in a shootout+OT. The Pens lost their 2 in regulation and went 2-2-0. The Penguins won a 7 game playoff series including the decisive Game 7 2-0 in Washington in the last matchup.

Did you know: It’s only been five months since the last time these teams met, but the changes are drastic. 6 Pens from Game 7 won’t be playing tonight (Kunitz, Bonino, Cullen, Hainsey, Fleury and injured Ian Cole). 7 members of the Capitals from that night are also gone (Williams, Shattenkirk, Winnik, Alzner, Schmidt, Johansson and the suspended Wilson).

Opponent focus

SBN Blog: Japers Rink

Last time out: On Monday night, the Caps blew a 2-0 and then a 3-1 lead down in Tampa, eventually falling 4-3 in overtime for their first taste of defeat in the young season.

Star of the show: Alex Ovechkin. Though there were even trade fantasies/questions this past spring (won’t even call them “rumors”) immediately following Washington’s latest post-season failure, their captain and the game’s best goal scorer has started the season with a vengeance scoring an amazing 7 goals in the first two games of the season. At 32-years old, Ovi may be past prime but it’s clear he very much remains the most dangerous shooter in the game.

Expected lines:

Andre Burakovsky - Nicklas Backstrom - TJ Oshie

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jakub Vrana

Alex Chiasson - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly

Tyler Graovac - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly


Dmitry Orlov / Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik / John Carlson

Taylor Chorney / Christian Djoos

—The Caps lines are feast or famine with an incredibly skilled top-6, followed by a huge drop-off for the bottom-6 who are basically just trying to get out of their shifts unscatched until the big guns can come back out.

—Human waste receptable Tom Wilson will serve the 4th game of a 4 game suspension, so the Pens will luckily avoid his usual boarding/kneeing nonsense.

—The Caps 3rd pair has been a huge liability so far but they’re only playing 11-12 minutes per night and it appears they’re making a change and youngster Christian Djoos will make his NHL debut tonight. Being at home they should be able to shield him away from 87 or 71’s lines at all costs. However, they won’t be able to shield the 37-year old Orpik in this configuration who is playing 22:46 per game in the young season.


Hole-y Holtby

28-year old Braden Holtby is one of the best goalies in the game with two-straight Vezina finalist seasons and three-straight 40+ win seasons to his name. However, Holtby is not one of the best goalies in the game when he’s facing Pittsburgh with this career stat-line

Regular season: 7-7-2, 2.77 GAA, .914 save %

Playoffs: 5-8, 2.53 GAA, .908 save %

Combined, those are the worst record and save % Holtby has against opponents. The Penguins and Capitals shooters often make games not very fun for opposing goalies in shootout type of games, Pittsburgh will be well pressed to come out firing tonight.

Metro power

The past two seasons, Washington has been the best team in the league in the regular season. Pittsburgh has eliminated Washington both years in way to being the best team in the league in the playoffs. Both are the powers of the Metropolitan division, but times are changing. Due mainly to salary cap situations, both the Pens and Caps lost a lot of depth and key players from last year. Other teams around the division didn’t lose as much and are getting growth from younger players.

In the 4 completed seasons that the Metropolitan Division has existed, the Caps have finished 1st twice, and 2nd once. The Pens have finished 1st once and 2nd twice. The landscape may be changing soon, but these two teams ought to once again be right in the mix and that endless battle for supremacy has another go tonight.

It’s so warm you’d think it’s Summers

Ian Cole is out for this game after taking a puck in the chops and losing teeth on Saturday night. He is traveling with the team though and not yet ruled out for tomorrow night’s game in Tampa. But with only 6 healthy defenseman, the team has recalled Chris Summers to take warmup just-in-case anything happens to someone else.

Chad Ruhwedel will make his 2017-18 debut tonight. Summers should be returned to WB/S when Cole is ready to return to the lineup.

Horned up for Horny?

Everyone’s favorite Viking and playoff warrior seems set to make his season debut tonight, and Capitals fans must feel none to pleased for that. Hornqvist scored several key and clutch goals in both of the past two playoff seasons and has proven to be a difference maker in the intense and physical PIT/WSH contests.

Sid + Gene vs. Ovi, Part 23908321

“I think you and I are destined to do this forever,” Heath Ledger’s Joker told Batman. The same could be said for Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, forever linked by #1 draft pick statuses to rival teams, the 2006 Calder race, untold number of Olympic/international games, the 2009 playoffs, dueling MVP and Maurice Richard battles, the 2016 and 2017 playoffs and who only knows what is to come.

Through team results, it would have to be Ovechkin cast as the Joker to Crosby’s Batman, and even the Joker returns every time from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm to look more dangerous than ever, as perhaps Ovechkin does now scoring the amazing 7 goals in his first 2 games.

Sadly with both parties in their 30’s, this isn’t destined to truly go on forever, so enjoy it now while it lasts and two of the best players of this generation lock horns and go head-to-head another time.