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Insider Only Penguins – Capitals X’s & O’s: 3rd Pairings for both teams show vulnerabilities

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What did we learn from the Penguins 4-3 OT win over the Washington Capitals?


A fifth meeting between the Penguins and Capitals this season, including a third meeting in the last six weeks continued to show areas the Penguins can exploit the Capitals and vice versa.

Matt Cullen who has found a fountain of youth at age 39, scored 44 seconds into the game on a play that started with the Capitals winning an offensive zone faceoff back but the Penguins retrieved the puck and all three forwards darted up the ice creating a 3-on-2 rush.

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How quick the Penguins can get up the ice is their bread and butter.

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Pittsburgh’s ability to create odd-man situations in their favor has been a staple of the Penguins success against the Capitals this season and it was there again tonight just moments into the game.

Tom Kuhnhackl, who’s offensive game is evolving due to the patience he now shows with the puck, did an excellent job in drawing a Caps defender (Nate Schmidt) to his side and setting up Cullen to go in all alone against Braden Holtby.

The previous meeting saw the Penguins capitalize when Washington got two or three forwards caught deep and that was the case here.

Far from a surprise, the defensive breakdown from Capitals was with their No. 3 pairing Nate Schmidt – Dmitry Orlov on the ice.

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Pittsburgh victimized the Schmidt-Orlov pairing for two goals, the second being a similar situation where this time Orlov over-pursued Tom Sestito in leading to a breakdown and a Conor Sheary goal. Sheary one of the best players on the ice in the win, caused the Capitals fits with his slippery style as the puck was following him all game and he seemed to come out of nearly every puck battle with possession of the puck.

While the same areas the Penguins had success vs the Capitals previously showed up again, it was the same story for the Capitals in areas they had success vs Pittsburgh.

The Capitals played a bit passive early on but when they amped up their pressure on the forecheck, Pittsburgh fell into the trap of getting sloppy with the puck.

Even though Pittsburgh out-shot Washington 16-9 in the third period, Washington overwhelmed and hemmed Pittsburgh in their own zone effectively that saw Washington start to dominate below the dots and in the net-front area.

Washington’s third pairing showed some vulnerabilities, so did Pittsburgh’s.

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The Ian Cole – Justin Schultz pairing were on the ice for the Capitals first two goals and both goals saw the Capitals work the puck around on the cycle against the Cole-Schultz pairing, then impose their will in front of the net, Ovechkin taking Schultz completely out of the play on Marcus Johansson’s goal where Mike Sullivan putting a cone out there might have been more effective and Johansson getting inside position on Cole for the goal.

At even strength for the Capitals:

39 shots attempts for, 35 against.
24 scoring chances, 20 against
9 high danger scoring chances, 9 against.

If a second round series between the two clubs has the majority of games with those type of numbers, it’s going to be good news for the Capitals. 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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