Penguins vs Capitals – NHL Pick for Friday, November 10th
It’s a surprisingly busy night in the NHL on Friday, with seven games on tap before the league gears up for a big weekend. There’s a couple of tantalizing matchups for bettors to focus on, but by far the most entertaining game is taking place in the nation’s capital. There are few rivalries that stand the test of time in the NHL, but anytime the Capitals and Penguins clash, it’s time to get the popcorn ready.
This is already the second time these two teams have met, with Pittsburgh edging Washington 3-2 in their last meeting. The Penguins have gotten the better of the Caps when the games matter in the postseason, but during the regular season, these two teams are fairly even. Pitt sports a 6-3-1 record in their last ten games head-to-head while Washington responds with a 4-5-1 mark of their own.
Despite again being the best team in hockey during the regular season last year, the Capitals are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, thanks to some rocky play to start the season. They own an 8-7-1 record through their first 16 games, and are coming off a brutal 3-1 loss at the hands of the lowly Buffalo Sabres. They are playing just .500 hockey at home, with a 3-3 record, and are struggling to get their defense into shape after losing Kevin Shattenkirk in the offseason.
They are allowing 3.19 goals a game, which ranks just 20th in the league, after having a top-five defense for the majority of last season. The three-headed defensive core of Brooks Orpik (-2), Dmitry Orlov (-2), and John Carlson (-5) have combined for an abysmal -9 rating, and look lost trying to protect the neutral zone against faster teams.
That’s bad news for the Capitals, considering who their opponent on Friday night is. The Penguins enter Capital One Arena averaging just 2.65 goals a game, but have three of the best scorers in the NHL, who look ready to break out at any moment. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel have combined for 17 goals this season, but you’d be surprised at who the struggling player is in the bunch.
Crosby has just 13 points through 17 games and is a brutal -12 on the season. Perhaps the Penguins’ captain is trying to do too much, but either way, he’ll need to improve his defensive play in a hurry if he wants to keep the Penguins competitive during a long season. Crosby is also second on the team in penalty minutes, an uncharacteristic trait for an otherwise cool-headed player. If Crosby can’t stay on the ice Friday night, the Capitals may be able to take advantage with their power-play.
This will also be a test of both goaltenders, as neither has played particularly well this season, despite their pedigree coming in. Braden Holtby, a previous Vezina winner and runner-up, is carrying a 2.62 goals against average and a .921 save percentage into the matchup, and his play has improved as of late, but the same can’t necessarily be said for Matt Murray. The Pens’ netminder owns a 2.90 goals against average and a less-than-stellar save percentage of .906.He’ll need to improve his play against a potent Washington offense.
Regardless of the competition, any time you get the Penguins at +108 on the moneyline, you have to take it. Pittsburgh has Washington’s number as of late, and I expect that trend to continue again on Friday night.