Tonight, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle for first place in the
Patrick Metropolitan Division. This is the first time since March 28, 1993 that the Capitals and Penguins have played a game as division rivals. Not only will the two teams be battling for first place, but their respective superstars will continue their recently re-ignited rivalry and fight for supremacy over the other.
Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net for the Penguins. Fleury has a 12-6 record with a GAA of 2.00 and a 92.1% save percentage. In his career (not including the post-season), Fleury has a 13-7-2 record with a GAA of 2.60 and a 91.2% save percentage.
Braden Holtby will be in the net for the Capitals. Holtby has a 10-6 record with a GAA of 2.62 and a 92.6% save percentage. In his career, Holtby is 0-3 against the Penguins with a GAA of 4.53 and an 86.1% save percentage.
The Capitals currently own the NHL’s second best power play with a PP% of 24.4%, while the Penguins have the 12th best power play with a PP% of 20.0%. It’s never a good idea to give either of these teams a man advantage, so staying out of the box is going to be important for both teams, even though both teams have top 10 penalty kills. The Capitals are second in the NHL in that department with a PK% of 86.9%, while the Penguins are ranked ninth with a PK% of 84.2%. When at even strength, the two teams are pretty even. The Penguins have an even strength goals for/goals against ratio of 1.06, while the Capitals have an even strength goals for/goals against ratio of 1.00.
There are three matchups that I think will determine this game. The first is Alex Ovechkin vs. Olli Maatta and Brooks Orpik. Maatta and Orpik will have a task that has at times seemed impossible to perform this season- shutting down (or limiting) Alex Ovechkin. Though Maata might get help from Kris Letang and Orpik can get help from Paul Martin, they’re going to have to handle their own as much as possible. The second one is Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin vs. the Capitals’ defense. Lately, the Capitals have seen improved play from their defensemen (particularly John Carlson). However, the Capitals’ young defensemen are probably going to have their hands full tonight. If they can keep on doing when they’ve been doing (not allowing chances close to the net and clearing rebounds from the middle of the ice), they will have a good night. That’s going to be very difficult to do against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The last one? Braden Holtby vs. that gorilla on his back. As I noted earlier, Holtby has struggled in his three career games against the Penguins. He must perform better this time around for the Capitals to win.
The puck will drop at 8:00 PM. The game will be shown on NBCSN and can be heard on 106.9 The Fan in DC.