Who: Washington Capitals (6-4-3, 15 points, 4th place Eastern Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (7-5-1, 15 points, 5th place in the Eastern Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, NBCSports-Washington in DC, NBC Sports nationally for the non-local markets
Opponent Track: The Caps have lost four straight regulation games. After tonight they’ll go back home to (maybe) meet Buffalo on Thursday and play the New York Rangers on Saturday and Sunday and then the Caps will see the Pens again next week on Tuesday (2/23) and Thursday (2/25).
Pens path ahead: It’s game 4 of 10 for only playing the Caps or Islanders for the Pens this month. The Pens then host NYI on Thursday and Saturday, before Pittsburgh travels down to DC next week, as mentioned above. The Pens then stay on the road and go back to the Island for two more road games @NYI to close out the month.
Season Series: The Pens are 3-0-0 against the Caps this season; winning a 4-3 shootout decision back on January 17th, and then Sidney Crosby tallied the OT winner two days later. On Sunday afternoon, it was a 6-3 Pens win. The teams will meet again next week in DC. Then it will be a long while before the schedule between the two concludes with Games 7 and 8 on April 29th and May 1st, also in DC.
Recent History: In addition to the three wins this season, the Pens are 9-2-0 vs. the Caps at home in the last 11 games. It stretches out to 5-1-0 vs. Washington since the start of the 2019-20 season (with the Caps being 1-3-2 on their side of the results with some OT/SO losses).
SBN Team Counterpart: It’s our friends at Japers Rink for review of and comment upon the news.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Backstrom is off to a wonderful start, he would be on pace for a 113 point season if this was a normal 82 game season, which of course it is not. Still, for all his consistency and production, Backstrom only has one 90+ point season in his career (he hit 101 way back in 2009-10) which only goes to show how great his age-33 season is going.
—One not-so-hot veteran is T.J. Oshie, who only has four points (1G+3A) in the last 11 games after having a three-point night in the season opener. Oshie has only one point (an assist) in his last six games and has been point-less for the last four games.
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - TJ Oshie
Richard Panik - Lars Eller - Conor Sheary
Carl Hagelin - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Brendon Dillon / John Carlson
Zdeno Chara / Justin Schultz
Dmitry Orlov / Nick Jensen
Possible starting goalie: Vitek Vanecek
Scratches: Daniel Sprong, Jonas Siegenthaler, Trevor van Riemsdyk
IR: Michal Kempny (LTIR), Henrik Lundqvist (LTIR)
—Vanecek has given up 3+ goals in 9 of his 10 last starts. As of Tuesday morning, Ilya Samsonov remains in Hershey on a conditioning stint as he gets back in the groove after his COVID issue. The Caps don’t have much of another option, Zachary Fucale is serving as the backup. Fucale has played parts of the last five seasons in the ECHL and has 0 career NHL games to his name.
And now for the Pens..
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Colton Sceviour- Mark Jankowski - Sam Lafferty
P.O Joseph / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / John Marino
Chad Ruhwedel / Cody Ceci
Announced starting goalie: Tristan Jarry
Scratches: Drew O’Connor, Yannick Weber, Casey DeSmith (ill)
IR: Juuso Riikola, Marcus Pettersson, Evan Rodrigues, Brian Dumoulin, Jared McCann
Taxi Squad: Alex D’Orio, Anthony Angello, Kevin Czuczman
—Pettersson could be on the verge of coming after taking a full practice yesterday.
—DeSmith did not practice yesterday and has been away from the team the past couple of days with an illness that the team said is not COVID-related. We will see how soon he feels better but it looks like the Pens will have to dress Maxime Lagace as the backup for a second game in a row.
Ready for the yellow jerseys? Get ready for ‘em, tonight’s the first time the Pens are breaking them out this season. Here’s how the team’s PR staff put it:
Tonight, the Penguins will be wearing their Pittsburgh Gold third jerseys for the first time this season. Last year, the Penguins went 7-5-1 in their Pittsburgh Gold thirds, and are 17-7-1 all-time when wearing them. Below is a look at Pittsburgh’s point leaders in their third jerseys:
Player G A PTS
Sidney Crosby 8 19 27
Evgeni Malkin 8 19 27
Jake Guentzel 9 11 20
Kris Letang 6 13 19
Bryan Rust 10 8 18
3 keys to the game:
- Second line stepup.. Evgeni Malkin has had a lot of great moments over the years against the Capitals. After the Crosby line has been so dominant as of late, it would be nice for the other scoring line to get going too. With the speed of Jason Zucker and Kasperi Kapanen going up against not-the-great mobility of the Caps’ blueline, this should be a good matchup for Pittsburgh
- PK will be tested. The Caps still have the NHL’s best power play at a wickedly unsustainably high 35.5%. They went 1 for 3 on Sunday, but that second goal was a fluke shot that came with only 20 seconds to go, the Pittsburgh PK was pretty good and almost got out unscathed. Winning the special teams battle against a similarly high-powered offensive team is always a crucial element of these Pens/Caps games. With the Pens power play getting back into a little better form, they’re still going to need the PK to do perhaps even more than their share in a game like this one.
- Who will get any semblance of goaltending? The “shoot” mantra should be on display here, with Vanecek getting shelled and not looking very good right now with a .866 save% and 4.22 GAA in his last four starts.. Of course, the Pens have their own problems here with Tristan Jarry still carrying a ridiculously bad .864 save% through eight games this season. Will either team be given NHL caliber goaltending? Vanecek was providing that in January and the Caps were racking up wins. Jarry did to an extent on Sunday and the Pens won the game.
Bets of the game (for entertainment purposes only)
— 6.5 goals (over)...See point three above. Both of these goalies are giving up goals in bunches. These teams just played and it was 4-3 by the end of the second period. Neither defense is really designed to slow the other down, these teams were built to out-gun each other up and down the ice.
— 2.5 shots Sidney Crosby (over)...Crosby usually brings out the shooting against Washington. He had 4 SOG last game, so he hit the over on his 2.5 even before the empty net goal.