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Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins

Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins

Last season, the Metropolitan Division was the toughest in the NHL, producing the Stanley Cup champ, the regular season champ and three of the top four teams in the overall standings.

How’s the division shaping up for 2017-18 after a summer of change for a few of its eight teams?

This week, CSN is taking a look at each team’s offseason moves and predicting how they’ll do this winter.


Team: Pittsburgh Penguins

2016-17 Results: 50-21-11 (111 points), second in Metro. Defeated the Blue Jackets, Capitals, Senators and Predators en route to a second straight Stanley Cup. 

Notable acquisitions: D Matt Hunwick, G Antti Niemi and RW Ryan Reaves.

Notable departures: C Nick Bonino, G Marc Andre Fleury, D Trevor Daley, D Ron Hainsey, LW Chris Kunitz and assistant coach Rick Tocchet.

When they will play the Caps: Oct. 11 and Nov. 10 in Washington and Feb. 2 and April 1 in Pittsburgh.


2017-18 Penguins Analysis: 

After hoisting the Cup in June 2016, the Penguins enjoyed a relatively painless offseason in terms of personnel changes.

But Sidney Crosby and Co. weren’t as fortunate after claiming a second straight championship this year. There was some roster churn—and it affected a few important pieces.

Two-way center Nick Bonino signed in Nashville and winger Chris Kunitz, a four-time Cup winner and alternate captain, landed in Tampa. They combined to produce 27 goals and 66 points last season. Forty-year-old Matt Cullen, meantime, remains unsigned and could retire; he accounted for 13 goals and 31 points. All told, that’s a decent amount of production, experience and postseason mettle walking out the door.

Losing Trevor Daley, a puck-moving defenseman who accounted for five goals and 14 assists in 56 games, hurts, as well. He signed in Detroit.

Goalie Marc Andre Fleury, meanwhile, also moved on, getting snapped up in the expansion draft by the Golden Knights. Though Matt Murray is now the Penguins’ No. 1 netminder, they wouldn’t have repeated without Fleury’s heroics in the first two rounds.

As significant as those losses are, though, the Pens’ projected lineup still looks formidable. Eight of the team’s top nine point producers—Crosby, Evgeny Malkin, Phil Kessel, Conor Sheary, Justin Schultz, Patric Hornqvist, Kris Letang and Jake Guentzel—are all back. Pittsburgh, in fact, was the only team to have three players crack the top 20 in points (Crosby, who led the league in goals, Malkin and Kessel). Murray, meanwhile, is healthy, more seasoned and still only 23 years old.

GM Jim Rutherford’s additions were not splashy ones given the Pens' cap situation. Veteran Matt Hunwick, who'll likely slide in on the third D pair, completes a blue line that’s also got Letang, Olli Maatta, Schultz, Ian Cole and Brian Dumoulin. Winger Ryan Reaves adds some beef and toughness to the fourth line, while 33-year-old netminder Antii Niemi will look to put a poor season in Dallas behind him as Murray’s backup.  

2017-18 Penguins Season prediction: 

Are the Penguins as deep as they’ve been in recent seasons?

In a word, no.

But as I look at the Pens’ roster, I find myself less focused on the lack of a third line center and/or whether Coach Mike Sullivan can squeeze the most out of a handful of less experienced players who’ll need to step up—he’s done it before and I suspect he’ll do it again—and more zeroed in on the fatigue factor.

If I were a Pittsburgh fan, I’d be most concerned about the cumulative effect of my favorite team’s extended back-to-back postseason runs. They played 24 playoff games in 2016 and 25 last season. In fact, 49 games is a record for the most playoff contests in a two-year span. And don't forget the World Cup at the outset of last season.

That’s taxing physically, mentally and emotionally.

The question for me isn’t whether all that postseason hockey will take its toll, it’s how much of a toll does it ultimately take?

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Game 7: Capitals vs. Maple Leafs Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 7: Capitals vs. Maple Leafs Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET. Coverage starts at 6:00 p.m. ET with Capitals FaceOff.

How to Watch: Capitals vs. Maple Leafs will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals vs. Maple Leafs game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals (3-2-1) take on the Maple Leafs (4-1-0) Tuesday, October 17 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.


The Capitals-Maple Leafs game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Capitals FaceOff gets things started at 6:00 p.m. ET followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington following the game for Caps Extra followed by Caps Overtime and Caps in 30 for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Capitals @ Flyers
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps OverTime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


The Capitals-Maple Leafs game, as well as the pre and postgame shows, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Here are the projected lines:

Andre Burakovsky - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jakub Vrana
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Tom Wilson
Devante Smith-Pelly - Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Tyler Graovac, Nathan Walker, Aaron Ness


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

USA Today Sports Images

Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

Lars Eller did not practice on Monday, and coach Barry Trotz shuffled his injury-depleted defense corps.

Here’s how everyone lined up:


Burakovsky – Backstrom – Oshie

Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Vrana

Connolly – Graovac – Wilson

Smith-Pelly – Beagle – Chiasson



Orpik – Bowey

Djoos – Carlson

Orlov – Chorney





RELATED: Caps destroyed by Flyers in lopsided road loss

Some notes, quotes and observations from KCI:

  • Trotz said Eller showed up sick and was sent home to recover and avoid spreading whatever he’s got. Trotz also isn’t sure whether the veteran center will be able to suit up against Toronto on Tuesday. “I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t answer that right now. We’ll see where his energy level is.”


  • The coaching staff shuffled the D-pairs with speedy Toronto coming to town. But Trotz also cautioned not to read too much into the tandems, since they’re likely to change throughout Tuesday’s game. Trotz even hinted that a final decision on which six D-men will suit up had not yet been made. “They’re going to be shuffled from now until we get people back,” Trotz said, referring to the injured Matt Niskanen, who is week-to-week with an upper body injury. “There are pairs for practice. There are pairs for parts of games. It’ll be a little bit situational.”


  • If defenseman Taylor Chorney does get back into the lineup, he knows that he needs to make a positive impression after sitting out the last three games as a healthy scratch. “I’ve been through this quite a bit over the last couple of years, but at the same time you probably want to make a little bit of a statement,” he acknowledged. “So for me, if I do get the opportunity to play, it would be a big game.”  


  • Speaking of the Leafs, they’re off to a 4-1-0 start with Auston Matthews (5 goals, including two OT winners) leading the way. Overall, Toronto is averaging a league-leading 5.2 goals per game. As you might imagine, Trotz had a lot of praise for last season’s first round opponent in general and Matthews specifically. “If he was playing 20 years ago, we’d be saying he’s Mario Lemieux-like,” Trotz said. “He’s six-foot-[three]. He skates great. He’s got unbelievable hands. And a hockey I.Q. and he’s strong on the puck.”  


  • As Washington attempts to turn the page from Saturday’s 8-2 clunker in Philly, Trotz said one area he’d like to see shored up is the number of shots the Caps have been allowing. Through six games, they’re yielding 34.5 shots on goal per game (tied for ninth most). Last year, they allowed 27.8 (fourth best). “We’re not as structured defensively,” Trotz said. “We haven’t put as big an emphasis this year as we did last year. We’ve put a little more emphasis on trying to replace some of the goals that we lost. But right now we have to get a little more balance. …We have to get that back into balance; we practiced some of that today.”


  • As you may remember, Madison Bowey’s father, Will, jumped on the first flight out of British Columbia that he could find in the hopes of catching his son’s NHL debut Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center. As it turned out, though, he experienced a couple of travel delays and didn’t make it. Dad will, however, be in attendance Tuesday night.


MORE CAPS: Nicklas Backstrom shines among NHL's top stars