NHL Hockey Betting: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals

NHL Hockey Betting:  Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals&h=235&w=320&zc=1

Canada might not have any teams in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs but they’ve definitely got a ‘rooting interest’ in this series. This might be the biggest ‘Russia vs. North America’ matchup since the Cold War. The Pittsburgh Penguins–led by the captain of Canada’s National Hockey Team aka Sidney Crosby–goes into battle with the Alex Ovechkin led Washington Capitals. Even without the nationalistic subtext this has the makings of an excellent series. The Capitals won the President’s Trophy this season as the top regular season team in the NHL. If the season was a month or so longer, however, the Penguins were on a pace to catch the Capitals. Pittsburgh won 14 of their last 16 regular season games and had the started the season with that kind of form they would have obliterated the Capitals and everyone else.

‘Form’ is a very salient question in this matchup because the Washington Capitals didn’t show a lot of it during the last three games of their first round matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers. Somehow they managed to advance despite being outscored 4-2 in the last three games. Sure, Flyers’ goalie Michael Neuvirth was playing out of his mind and Philadelphia wasn’t a bad defensive team during the regular season (#12, 2.56 goals against per game). But Washington was the #2 scoring offense during the season and they sure didn’t look like it against the Flyers. If Washington doesn’t get back on track quickly they could be up against it here. The Penguins are a much better offensive team than Philadelphia was and based on regular season numbers almost as good as Washington (the Pens were #3 in the regular season). If you look at post All Star Game numbers it’s not even close–Pittsburgh was the top second half goal scoring team in the league, Washington was #21 almost a full goal per game fewer than the Penguins (3.56 vs. 2.63).

Of course by the All Star Break the Capitals were already in the clear atop the Eastern Conference. They were in ‘cruise control’ for much of the second half of the season. The issue now is their need to play with more urgency–and if they don’t against the hottest team in the NHL dating back to the regular season they won’t be playing in the Conference Finals this year.


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