A couple of days after their last meeting, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins will face off for the fourth time this season. This game comes off of the heels of the Penguins (7-5-1) remaining unbeaten at home by beating the Capitals (6-4-3) by a final score of 6-3.
Both of these clubs find themselves at 15 points, tied for fourth place in the highly-competitive East Division, so Tuesday’s game will give one of these teams sole control over a playoff position. Here is a look at each team, along with betting odds and a free pick.
Washington Capitals Betting Preview: No “D” in D.C.
Despite still being in the playoff mix, the Capitals are in a downswing. Washington has dropped four straight games, easily their longest losing streak of the season. Even worse, the lack of their starting goaltender in net is largely the reason why the Caps have allowed 22 goals in those four losses, six fewer goals than the Golden Knights have allowed in 13 games this season.
For the year, Washington is allowing 3.77 goals per game, the second-most in hockey, on over 32 shots on goal. In a lot of ways it counter-acts their offense, which averages 3.54 goals, fourth in the NHL, and boasts the league’s best power play percentage at 35.5 percent. The last four games have all been on brand with these stats, as the Caps have scored 12 goals in their last four games and multiple power play goals but have failed to get enough stops.
Longtime center Nicklas Backstrom has flourished this season, as the vet scored his seventh goal of the season on Sunday to increase his goal-lead and point-lead on the team. Five point behind Backstrom is the future Hall-of-Famer Alex Ovechkin, who is at 13 points in nine games. John Carlson and Tom Wilson are each tied with 12 points, while another one of Sunday’s scorers Jakub Vrana is up to nine points.
One x-factor could be Evgeny Kuznetsov. After missing eight games due to COVID, Kuznetsov returned Sunday and scored a goal, his second of the season. The 28-year old star is a much-welcomed addition to a struggling Capitals team.
Pittsburgh Penguins Betting Preview: A Group Effort
For years, the Penguins lived and died with their MVP-caliber players Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Now, the team seems to be more-balanced, with other players helping to shoulder the load this season. That has really been evident in the last two games, where Pittsburgh not only scored 10 total goals and won both of them but had 11 different skaters register at least one point. They’ll hope that kind of production can keep going against one of their most-hated rivals in the Capitals.
On the season, Pittsburgh is averaging 3.08 goals per game on 29.7 shots, each of which rank in the middle of the pack. Surprisingly, they’ve also struggled on the power play, sitting 23rd at 15.4 percent, but did score with the extra man on Sunday. Defensively, poor goaltending early on has hurt the Penguins, as they have given up 3.62 goals per game, the fourth-most in hockey, despite giving up the fourth-fewest shots. They also have a penalty kill rate of just about 70 percent, the fourth-worst in hockey.
Pittsburgh’s leading scorer is neither Crosby or Malkin, but rather Bryan Rust. Rust ahs scored in back-to-back games, including two on Sunday, to give him five goals and a team-leading 13 points. Not too far behind though is Crosby, as well as Jake Guentzel, each of whom are tied with Rust in goals and have seven assists. Of course, veteran standouts Malkin and Kris Letang have solid, as each of them have seven points, along with third-year forward Teddy Blueger.
The Penguins offense received a boost last week with the return of Zach Aston-Reese as well. Aston-Reese had missed the entire year with an injury, but returned Thursday against the Islanders and registered a goal in each of his first two games. His production will definitely add more firepower to Pittsburgh.
Capitals vs. Penguins Betting Odds & Lines
MyBookie has the Penguins as home favorites, listing them at -125 on the moneyline. Meanwhile, the Capitals on MyBookie are +105.
There’s some reason to expect some offense once again. The over/under at MyBookie is 6.5, with the over favored at -120 and the under at +100.
Free Betting Pick
Despite the Penguins winning by three goals on Sunday, that game was much closer than the score indicates. Pittsburgh netted a couple of empty-netters late in the game, otherwise it would look a lot closer to the first two meetings between these teams. Expect another great game.
However, if Washington had Ilya Samsonov back in net, I would like their odds a little more. Samsonov has been out for a few weeks with COVID and is now on a rehab stint in the AHL. His backup Vitek Vanecek has cooled off drastically, and will be susceptible to a Pittsburgh team that is four lines deep. Look for the Penguins to beat their rivals once again to remain undefeated at home.
Spooky Express Free Pick: Penguins -125