The Crosby – Ovechkin Rival is Back: Early 6pm Game on NBCSN
The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins meet for the third time this season with one more game before the season ends. The Caps have won two of the three last matches but the wins didn’t come easy on either side. The Caps are secure in their playoff position while the Pens are fighting for every point, especially now that they have moved up from the Wild Card spot.
When the teams met for the first time in October the Pens were a team struggling to get out of the bottom of the league. Their win over the Caps in October didn’t help. By December the Caps would spoil the Pens hope for change and earlier this month the Caps pulled out another win over the Pens. In each case, Braden Holtby has withstood the onslaught of shots to keep the Caps in the game and winning. We expect nothing less from him on Sunday.
The Pens Bench
Expect the Pens to set up a good physical and fast-playing game. They love to take control of the ice at home and today will be no different.
Pittsburgh is missing a key element to their play, Evgeni Malkin. In his absence though Sidney Crosby has surged with goals and points. He notched his 30th goal for the season against Carolina a couple days ago. And he has recorded a point in each of his last 11 games with two two-goal scoring games in that mix.
And lets not overlook RW Phil Kessell. He is great at setting up his teammates to score, when he isn’t scoring himself. He has 21 goals and 26 assists coming into the Caps-Pens match. The Caps defense needs to keep this guy out of their zone and eliminate his advantage–especially on any power play opportunities.
And then there are their goalies. Expect Marc-Andre Fluery between the posts. He may be a little tired after his win against the Flyer’s Saturday in which he had 16 saves. Backing him up is Matthew Murray.
The Caps Bench
The Caps are on a bit of a high right now having clinched their playoff spot and holding a strong lead over every other team in the NHL. It is not a time to become complacent as they fine-tune their game in the battle for the cup.
Alex Ovechkin, unlike Crosby, is in a bit of a slump. He has only recorded one goal in his last six games and only three assists in that same timeframe. One wonders if he is having problems again–the kind that took him out of the All Stars Game. Lets hope we see a return of his scoring power against The Kid in Pittsburgh.
That other saucy Russian- Evgeny Kuznetsov is the Caps magic weapon, flying by the net and setting up goals for his mates. With 20 goals and 53 assists, Kuzy may be the real competition for Crosby and the Pens defense. He has recorded points in his last five games with a whimsical three assists against Nashville.
And we have our own defensive weapon in the form of the Holtbeast–Braden Holtby. He has the winning lead in the NHL (43) as well as in the Caps franchise. Although his games against average (GAA) has slipped, he remains one of the more formidable goalies in the league. Backed up by Philipp Grubauer who has a 2.15 GAA and a .925 save percentage the Caps are in a great position to hold back the Pens again.
Timing is everything and scoring first will matter in this game. The first team on the board will set the momentum for the game and in the case, the Caps need to take that lead early and then secure it with a strong offensive defense.