The NHL is set up with smaller day of action on January 17. Two games will be up on the board throughout Sunday. One of the games will be between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins. These two teams have had opposite starts to open up this season, but will look for a big win in this one. This game will drop the puck at around 12:00 PM Eastern time on NBC.
The Capitals finished out last season with a record of 41-20-8, which had them sitting in first place of the Metropolitan Division. Washington was knocked out in the first round by the New York Islanders. The Capitals have opened up this season with a record of 2-0 after sweeping the first back to back with the Buffalo Sabres. Washington will look to come out strong in this one as well as they look to stay undefeated.
Pittsburgh put up a record of 40-23-6 throughout last season, which put them in third place of the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins were knocked off by the Montreal Canadiens in the qualifiers, which was a huge disappointment. Pittsburgh went 0-2 throughout their games against the Philadelphia Flyers to open up the new season.
These two teams have started this season in opposite directions. Washington was able to earn two wins, while the Penguins took two tough losses. These two teams put up very similar records last season, but neither team could earn a postseason series win. I expect both teams to try and come out quick in this one to put up a statement win.
The Capitals and the Penguins met up three times throughout last season. Washington hosted the first game on February 2. Lars Eller scored twice for the Capitals on the night. It was not enough though. Patric Hornqvist, Sam Lafferty, Dominik Simon and Brandon Tanev all scored for Pittsburgh as the Penguins earned a 4-3 win on the night.
The second game of the season series stayed in Washington on February 23. Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist on the night, while Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist both scored. Carl Hagelin had two goals though. T.J. Oshie had a goal and an assist, while Nicklas Backstrom had two assists. Braden Holtby stopped 32 of 35 shots as the Capitals earned a 5-3 win.
Pittsburgh hosted the final game of the season series on March 7. Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist, but the Penguins once again fell up short. Nic Dowd had two goals and an assist for the Capitals. Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Richard Panik each had a goal and an assist to help lead Washington. The Capitals finished with a 5-2 win to finish of the season series.
Washington won the season series 2-1 last season. The Capitals rattled off back to back wins after losing the first game of the season series. Washington will look to find that momentum again coming into this game. The Penguins will look to come out better in this one after losing two straight to the Flyers. Pittsburgh will need to tighten up on defense coming into Sunday’s game.
The Capitals were around middle of the league when it came to special teams throughout last season. Washington capitalized on 42 of their 216 power play chances throughout last season, which was a 19.4 percent success rate. The Capitals gave up 43 goals on 241 power play opportunities to opposing teams, which was an 82.6 percent penalty kill.
Pittsburgh was also around the league average on both sides of special teams last season. The Penguins scored on 42 of their 211 power play attempts, which was good for a 19.9 percent power play. Pittsburgh allowed their opponents to score on 34 of 190 power play opportunities, which was an 82.1 percent kill rate.
These two teams had very similar special teams throughout last season. The Capitals have gone 1-2 on the power play and have killed off 7 of the 8 power plays against them to open up this season. Pittsburgh has opened up the season with a 2-8 on the power play and have given up 3 goals on 9 power play attempts. Washington will need to avoid getting a bunch of penalties in this one.
Ilya Samsonov will likely get the nod in the crease for the Capitals in this matchup. Samsonov had a strong debut last season, putting up a record of 16-6-2. In those games, he earned a save percentage of .913 and a 2.55 GAA. Samsonov stopped 22 of 26 shots in the season opening win, which was a .846 save percentage. Washington will look for him to have a better performance in this one.
I expect Tristan Jarry will likely get the start in the net for Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. Jarry had a great performance throughout last season. He finished with a record of 20-12-1 in his starts. Jarry had a save percentage of .921 and a 2.43 GAA in those starts. Jarry has struggled to open up this season, posting a .710 save percentage and a GAA of 7.57.
These two goalies have not had ideal starts to this season, but will look to bounce back in this performance. Both goalies had strong performances throughout last season, which was enough for their team to give them the starting role this season. I expect both goalies to play well in this one to try and confirm that confidence in them.
These two teams will look to earn a big win early in the season series. The Penguins looked bad in their opening two game series with the Flyers, but I think that Pittsburgh will bounce back in this one. If Washington keeps taking power plays, the Penguins will have a chance to capitalize on it. Pittsburgh also needs Jarry to step up big in this one.
BetOnline has Pittsburgh listed as a -113 against the money line in this one. This implies that the Penguins will win this game around 53.1 percent of the time. Pittsburgh will likely come out much better on Sunday after those two losses. I like the Penguins to take control of the pace early in this one, and as slight favorites, I think there is value on Pittsburgh.