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Penguins vs Capitals Preview: I remember my first beer

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It’s only Game 1 of 82, even if it feels like something more.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Opening night is here, as the Pittsburgh Penguins look to kick off the 2018-19 season on the right note. And the opponent will be a familiar one, the Washington Capitals.

Details

Washington Capitals (1-0-0) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (0-0-0)

When: 7:00 p.m.

How to watch: Locally broadcasted game on AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh. NHL Center Ice is having a free preview if you’re out of market. Sportsnet in Canada is carrying the game.

SBN blog: Japers Rink

Key Storylines

  • TV Title is on the line!

Until the champion loses, me and my friends pretend they carry around a title into the next season. Whoever beats them gets the impromptu belt, they then keep it until they lose, and so on and so on. It’s easier to track in a sport like football, but for now, the Caps are putting it on the line tonight in Pittsburgh

  • NHL’s greatest rivalry?

To us it’s a tired narrative, but the Capitals didn’t really accomplish anything until they finally defeated the Penguins in the playoffs. The two rivals are both in form now, and both are standing in each other’s way to get back to where they want to go. The past three winners of Pittsburgh/Washington have won the Stanley Cup. There’s pretty decent odds that whoever wins the almost inevitable rematch will make that 4/4. This rivalry doesn’t have the weight of history of Toronto/Montreal, Montreal/Boston, or Detroit/Chicago, etc., but at least in modern day NHL there’s been no more important rivalry than Pittsburgh/Washington.

  • Powerful plays

Traditionally, the Penguins and Capitals have two of the most formidable and fearful power plays in the league. It’s pretty easy to say, but also true that whichever one is more of a factor tonight, that team is probably going to win.

Opponent

The Caps rick-rolled the Boston Bruins last night 7-0. Tuukka Rask was awful giving up two goals in the opening 1:47 of the game (the second being exceptionally weak) and Washington was off to the races.

The aforementioned potent power play of the Caps scored three goals in the first 27 minutes of the game as well, ending up 4-for-6 on the night. And they even called off the dogs on some of the late PP’s with Brooks Orpik out there, which is as “foot off the gas” as you can get in the NHL. Staying out of the penalty box is an essential for Pittsburgh tonight. If you have to hook Evgeny Kuznetsov so bird brain doesn’t get a breakaway? Okay, that’s one thing. But no tripping or cross-checking non-threatening players in the corners like Boston was doing all night long.

Here’s the Capitals’ lineup, with little reason to expect any changes from something that worked so well. Braden Holtby only faced 25 shots and probably didn’t even need to take a post-game shower because Boston didn’t make him work much, so reports from D.Cc are that he will probably play again tonight against the Penguins as well.

One name you don’t see is Tom Wilson, because the long arm of the NHL law finally caught up with him. Wilson was issued his fourth suspension in just 105 games played (with a few more reviews for narrowly close bad hits) and is being sat by the league for 20 games! This brings his career games suspended vs goals scored to 29-35.

HAHAHAHAHA!

Pens!

As Kait dug up, it looks like Brian Dumoulin is close to being cleared to play in the opener after all following an injury in a preseason game last week.

If Dumoulin can go, expect the lines to start out as:

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Carl Hagelin - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel

Dominik Simon - Derick Brassard - Bryan Rust

Matt Cullen - Riley Sheahan - Daniel Sprong OR Derek Grant

Dumoulin - Kris Letang

Olli Maatta - Jack Johnson

Jamie Oleksiak - Justin Schultz

—Sprong is also close to rejoining the team after an injury.

***

Otherwise, everyone is excited. It’s opening night — the start of a new season and a fun journey. Let’s enjoy it and hope it gets off to the right start.