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Insider Only Penguins – Capitals Game 1 Line Matching: Who had the Edge?

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Game 1 Line Matchups: Who had the Edge?

Bonino Line vs Kuznetsov Line

Edge: Bonino Line

Nick Bonino vs Evgeni Kuznetsov — Penguins had 18 shot attempts, just 7 against when these two were on the ice together 5 v 5.

Carl Hagelin who had 2 assists, team-high 10 shot attempts, also had a SAT% of 67 in the loss. The Penguins making Kuznetsov consistently play his own end will become a big issue for the Capitals if it continues.

When Hagelin was on the ice against Kuznetsov, Pittsburgh drove possession on 80% of their shot attempts (19/5).

Justin Williams normally a possession monster, had a 30 SAT% (9/21).

We’ll see if the Capitals look to get away from this matchup in Game 2.

Second line vs second line, big edge went to Pittsburgh in Game 1.

Sidney Crosby line vs Alexander Ovechkin Line

Edge: Ovechkin Line

Mike Sullivan is a believer in going strength vs strength.

Possession numbers were in the favor of the Crosby line (15/12, 56 CF%) head-to-head vs the Ovechkin line, but the Ovechkin line produced three even strength goals against the Crosby line, though, it’s hard to place any blame on Sheary-Crosby-Hornqvist for Oshie’s breakaway goal off the Maatta turnover.

Still, Crosby was limited to one shot on goal in the game, Conor Sheary had 2 shots on goal in the game.

No surprise, Crosby saw a lot of Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner at 5 v 5 with the Penguins driving possession on 66% of their shot attempts in over 15 minutes when Crosby was out against Alzner-Niskanen. Most importantly, though, Alzner – Niskanen were on the ice for no goals against.

Both teams are surely looking at this matchup where they feel positively about it moving forward.

For Pittsburgh it was their ability to drive possession. Washington the obvious being a +3 goal differential and limiting individual scoring chances (2) from Crosby.

Evgeni Malkin Line vs Capitals Bottom-6

Edge: Even

The importance of the Penguins having great success in Game 1 in having the Bonino line handle the Kuznetsov line is it opens the door for Evgeni Malkin’s line to go up against the Capitals bottom-6.

That said, one of Malkin’s wingers is a beaten and worn down Chris Kunitz, another in Eric Fehr, who minus a few moments here and there, has played at a 4th line capable level this season.

The Malkin line produced one goal and were on the ice for one goal against in the Game 1 loss.

Both goal situations were against the Burakovsky – Richards – Chimera line, though, it wasn’t the line Malkin saw most often.

5 v 5 he was only out against Richards for 2:29 according to War-on-Ice, with the Richards line posting a SAT% of 70 (7/3) against Malkin.

The line Malkin saw the bulk of time at even strength was against Winnik – Beagle – Wilson. The Beagle line held their own in surrendering just 7 shot attempts in over seven minutes against the Malkin line.

Tom Wilson in fact played over 8 minutes at even strength against Malkin. That’s a situation the Penguins should be able to exploit more if it continues, but I’m just not sure Malkin’s wingers are good enough to give the Penguins the type of advantage you think they should have against the Capitals checking 4th line.

While Crosby saw a heavy load of Alzner-Niskanen, Barry Trotz went with Orpik-Carlson vs Malkin.

No reason to expect that to change in Game 2.

Interesting enough with Malkin, he only saw the seventh most even strength minutes (15:10) among Penguin forwards in Game 1.

Sidney Crosby played almost five minutes more at 19:56.

Yes, Malkin’s a third line center right now when it comes to his deployment.

Cullen Line & Poor Possession Numbers Continuing

The Penguins are at their best when their playing a speed game. Two of those key players are Matt Cullen and Bryan Rust. Possession numbers are certainly not the end all be all, but how many shot attempts the Cullen line continues to give him up throughout the post-season is becoming an alarming trend.

Game 1 vs the Capitals

Matt Cullen – 24 CF% (7/22)
Bryan Rust – 24 CF% (7/22)
Tom Kuhnhackl – 25 CF% (6/18)

The Richards line owned them in being able to drive possession and any Capital line was causing this Penguin unit fits in Game 1.

There was a 59 second shift in the first period where the Cullen line got stuck out against the Ovechkin line and in that 59 seconds, Washington had 7 Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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