PENGUINS (13-8-0, 26 pts) @ CAPITALS (12-8-1, 25 pts)
Playing in the same division for the first time since the 1990’s, the Penguins – Capitals rivalry appears headed back to where it was a few years ago now with Alexander Ovechkin re-emerging again as one of the best players in the game.
Ovechkin who could very well be headed towards another MVP season, has 17 goals in 19 games this season and 39 goals in his last 40 regular season games. Staggering numbers in today’s NHL.
Think about that for a second when Evgeni Malkin once widely considered the second best player in hockey, has 9 goals in his last 40 regular season games.
For the Malkin apologists who get upset every time some statistics are thrown out there which look negative towards Malkin, here’s Crosby – Ovechkin numbers over their last 40 regular season games:
Sidney Crosby 18 Goals – 39 Assists – 57 Points | Alexander Ovechkin 39 Goals – 19 Assists – 57 Points
Malkin has 9 goals – 29 assists – 38 points in his last 40 regular season games.
Here are some pre-game tidbits for tonight’s game:
— The goaltending matchup tonight will be Braden Holtby (10-6-0, 2.62 GAA, .925 sv%) vs Marc Andre Fleury (12-6-0, 2.00 GAA, .921 sv%). Holtby has been excellent of late, going 6-1-0 with a 2.09 GAA and .940 save percentage during that span. Holtby has won 10 of his last 13 starts but is Holtby 0-3 all-time vs the Penguins with a 4.53 GAA and .861 save percentage.
Fleury is coming off a strong game against the Ducks Monday night and is 3-4-0 in his last seven starts. Fleury has been a different goaltender at home than on the road. At home Fleury is 9-2-0 compared to 3-4-0 on the road with a 2.73 GAA and .889 save percentage.
–The Capitals will be without top defenseman Mike Green and John Erskine. Washington has been given up a lot of shots of late and that will be something to watch tonight and the shot attempts should be in the Penguins favor.
— An underrated area of the Capitals is that they have great size in their bottom-2 lines. That could be a matchup problem for the Penguins as they have a smallish bottom-2 lines. One scout was telling me last week how he feels the Capitals are built better to play Western Conference than the Penguins.
— The Crosby line should expect to see a lot of Capitals defensemen Karl Alzner and John Carlson who anchor their top pair. Carlson a very underrated defenseman is on Team USA’s radar and the Penguins brass will all be in the building tonight.
— The Penguins will use the same four lines tonight: Kunitz – Crosby – Bennett, Dupuis – Malkin – Neal; Jokinen – Sutter – Gibbons; Glass – Vitale – Adams