Pittsburgh vs Washington
Series Odds: Pittsburgh Penguins -120
For the fourth year in a row we get the Caps and the Penguins playing and for the last 3 years the Penguins have come out the winner and this rival has been pretty one-sided with Washington winning one playoff series in 11 total series. This year they split the regular season 2-2 and they were only separated in the standings by 5 points. Both teams are playing well as Pittsburgh looked good against an upstart Philadelphia club and after going down 0-2 against Columbus, Washington won the next 4. Three of the four regular-season games went under the total but I am going to be looking at the over in this series as neither goalie was spectacular in round 1. Washington goalie Braden Holtby did not even start the first 2 games versus the Blue Jackets but then came back to win 4 in a row. Murray was average against Philadelphia and he struggles in the regular season.
Injuries are also something to monitor in this series as Evgeni Malkin is out for game 1 and could miss more time than that. The Penguins will also be without winger Carl Hagelin and we don’t know for how long. The Capitals are without forward Andre Burakovsky as his injury status is week to week so he may not play at all in this series.
The defensive advantage goes to the Caps as Pittsburgh has never played great defense. John Carlson and Dimitry Orlov are both above average for Washington and help from a good defense while Brooks Orpik is a major defensive liability. Even with Orpik, the advantage goes to the Caps. Depth, on the other hand, is an advantage for Pittsburgh. Both teams have excellent scorers but the dropoff after the top lines is much steeper in Washington than Pittsburgh. I also believe fatigue could play a part in this series as the Capitals just played a series that included 4 overtime games and are not as deep as the Penguins.
In a very even series, special teams and goaltending will most likely be the difference and I give a small edge on both to the Caps based on how both units are playing in the playoffs. The Washington power play is red hot at 33.3% in the playoffs with Pittsburgh at 20%. But the Penguins did hold the #1 power play in the regular season. This series has been chippy the last 3 years and if that continues Pittsburgh could be in trouble as their power play is struggling and Washington is not. I also lean over in this penalty heavy scenario as Pittsburgh should be better than 20% with the man advantage.
Prediction: Caps in 7