2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
Metropolitan Division Finals
#2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #1 Washington Capitals
Best of Seven Series Format: 2-2-1-1-1
Odds to Win Series (courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbooks): Capitals -120 / Penguins +100
Game #1 – Verizon Center – Washington, DC
Thursday, April 28, 2016, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: NBC Sports
Opening Line: Capitals -140 / Penguins +120
Current Line: Capitals -130 / Penguins +110
Opening Total: over 5 -110 / under 5 -110
Current Total: over 5 -125 / under 5 +105
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals meet in the playoffs for the ninth time since 1991 as both advanced to the Eastern Conference second round. Pittsburgh has won seven of the eight playoff playoff meetings including the last in 2009 en route to their third Stanley Cup. The winner between Washington and Pittsburgh will face either the New York Islanders or Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Pittsburgh is coached by Mike Sullivan. The Penguins finished second in the Metropolitan Division with 104 points. Pittsburgh dominated the New York Rangers in 5 games in the first round. The Penguins outscored the Rangers 21-10 in the series including 6-3 in the clincher last Saturday.
Washington is coached by Barry Trotz. The Capitals won the Metropolitan Division with 120 points and also the President’s Trophy for the best record in the league. After outscoring the Philadelphia Flyers 12-2 in the first three games, Washington lost the next two games. The Capitals wrapped up the series in game six in Philadelphia with a 1-0 win last Sunday.
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Pittsburgh is outscoring teams 4.20-2.00 in the playoffs. The Penguins average 30.6 shots per game and opponents average 30.8 per game. Pittsburgh is 8/21 (38.1%) on the power play in the playoffs and 17/19 (89.5%) on the penalty kill. The Penguins are #1 on the power play so far in the playoffs. Pittsburgh has one short handed goal and has allowed one as well.
Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury missed the first round with a concussion and is doubtful for game one of this series. Back-ups Matt Murray and Jeff Zatkoff split time in the net for the Penguins. Murray is 3-0 in the playoffs with a 1.33 goals against average. He has made 85 of 89 saves (.955) with one shutout. Zatkoff is 1-1 with a 3.07 GAA. He has made 59/65 saves (.908). Murray will continue to start barring injury.
Center Sidney Crosby has 8 points in the playoffs including 5 assists. He has two power play goals. Evgeni Malkin has 7 points with 5 assists, including 2 power play goals. Phil Kessel has six points with 3 goals all on the power play. Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist and Nick Bonino each have five points in the playoffs. Four other players have three points in the playoffs. Right wing Beau Bennett is questionable with a shoulder injury. Left wing Scott Wilson and center Kevin Porter are both out indefinitely.
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Washington is outscoring teams 2.33-1.00 in the playoffs. The Capitals average 31 shots per game and opponents average 25.8. Washington is 8/27 (29.6%) on the power play and 22/23 (95.8%) on the penalty kill. The Capitals are #2 in both the power play and penalty kill. Washington hasn’t scored or allowed a short handed goal in the playoffs.
Washington goalie Braden Holtby won an NHL record 48 games in the regular season and is a finalist for the Vezina trophy. He went 4-2 against the Flyers with an 0.84 GAA. He made 149/154 saves (.968) with 2 shutouts.
Center Nicklas Backstrom has 7 points in the playoffs with 5 assists. Defenseman John Carlson has 6 points with 3 goals, including 2 on the power play. Center Marcus Johansson has 6 points with 5 assists. Alex Ovechkin has five points with 3 goals all on the power play. T.J. Oshie has 4 points with 3 assists. Defenseman Karl Alzner is probable with an upper body injury and defenseman Brooks Orpik is questionable with a concussion.
Pittsburgh is 10-1 in road games, 6-1 after scoring 5 goals or more, 14-3 after a win, 13-3 against teams with winning records, 7-2 after three or more days rest, 20-6 after the opponent scored 2 goals or less, against Metropolitan and Eastern Conference teams, 35-16 overall, and 35-17 in Thursday games. The road team is 5-2 in this series recently. The Penguins are 12-5 against the Capitals including 6-2 in Washington.
Washington is 39-13 after scoring 2 goals or less, 37-14 against Eastern Conference Teams, 5-2 on three or more days rest, 36-15 at home and in Thursday games, 59-27 overall, 17-8 against Metropolitan teams, 7-16 in conference semifinal games, 2-5 after a win, and 1-5 against teams with winning records. The under is 8-3-1 in this series recently in Washington.
Pittsburgh has long been Washington’s toughest challenge especially in the playoffs. The Capitals have one beaten the Penguins once in the playoffs in 1994. This will be a battle of Washington’s defense against the explosive offense of Pittsburgh. That isn’t to say Washington can’t light the lamp on a regular basis. I think Holtby will be the difference and I like the Capitals to win the series in seven games. It starts with a game one victory Thursday.
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