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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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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Alex Ovechkin further cemented his place in NHL history, John Carlson stayed hot and Braden Holtby was good when called upon as the Caps downed the Stars, 4-3, at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night.

The victory was Washington’s fifth in the past six games. It also marked the Caps’ first win over Dallas in D.C. since 2006.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season and the 602nd of his career in the second period to give the Caps a short-lived 3-2 edge in the second period.

The goal put Ovi back atop the league as he seeks a seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. It also pushed him past Jari Karri and into sole possession of 19th place on the NHL’s all-time list. Ovechkin has now victimized Kari Lehtonen 22 times, which is tied for the most goals he’s scored against a single netminder. (Henrik Lundqvist has also given up 22 goals to No. 8). Ovi also had a couple of secondary helpers.

2-John Carlson, Capitals

Carlson scored the game-winner 4:59 with left to play, blasting a one-timer past Lehtonen to put the Caps ahead 4-3.

Carlson also notched an assist, which allowed him to stay even with Dallas’ John Klingberg. Klingberg had two assists. Both players ended the game with 61 points—tied for the most among all NHL defensemen.    

3-Alexander Radulov, Stars

From his first shift, it was apparent that Radulov was determined to leave his mark on the game. And he did just that, recording a goal, an assist and boarding minor that bloodied Caps defenseman Michal Kempny. Radulov’s goal—a redirection of a John Klingberg shot—was his 26th and it evened the score, 2-2, in the second period.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.