The Capitals welcome in the Pittsburgh Penguins to Washington on Thursday for Game 1 of last year’s rematch. Washington may have home-ice advantage after beating out Pittsburgh for the Metropolitan Division, but there are still plenty of reasons to be nervous about a matchup with the Penguins.
The Caps and Penguins have faced one another nine times in the playoffs. Washington’s record? A paltry 1-8 with their lone win coming in 1994. Does the fact that the Caps lost to Pittsburgh in 1996 have any bearing on this series? No, but the Caps and Penguins have faced twice in the Alex Ovechkin/Sidney Crosby era with Pittsburgh emerging victorious both times including in 2016. The 2017 Penguins return many of the key pieces that not only helped them beat Washington, but win the Stanley Cup as well.
2. Washington’s third defensive pair
The playoffs have a way of revealing a team’s weaknesses and one certainly emerged in the first round for Washington. Most people dismiss +/- as an antiquated stat, but while it may paint a very limited picture of an individual’s performance, it can be very telling in terms of lines. Through the first round, Brooks Orpik and Kevin Shattenkirk are tied for dead last on the team with a minus-4. The fact that they are a defensive pair makes this a very telling stat. Las year’s Penguins team was able to exploit the Caps’ third pair as the Caps cycled in Orpik, Dmitry Orlov, Taylor Chorney and Mike Weber. An Orpik-Shattenkirk pair is certainly stronger than what the Caps rolled out last year, but it does not appear that they are as strong as many had hoped.
3. Did you see what Pittsburgh did to Columbus?
The Columbus Blue Jackets finished the regular season with the fourth-best record in the NHL. Yet, their postseason lasted just five games as Pittsburgh beat them like a drum. The Caps are a better team than Columbus and appear to be a tougher matchup, but one can’t help but be impressed with how quickly and decisively the Penguins dispatched the Jackets. Plus, for a team dealing with a handful of injuries, getting a few days off after a short series allowed them more time to get healthy.
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