Game 48 Preview – Penguins and Capitals

Published on January 15th, 2014

The Pens Nation Gameday Report

By: Casey Johnston (@CaseyR82)

Last Game for the Penguins:  Saturday, a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames.  People may look at the score and say that the Penguins played down to their opponent, but that would be unfair to Flames goalie Reto Berra, who faced 26 shots on the night.  The Penguins especially challenged Berra in the first period where he faced 13 shots, including two chances from Sidney Crosby that may have gotten past a more familiar goaltender.

The Penguins did not crack Berra’s wall until 16:34 of the first period when Chris Kunitz scored his 24th goal of the season.  Matt Niskanen got what would eventually be credited as the game-winning goal at 6:42 of the second period.

The third period was marred by the match penalty given to Robert Bortuzzo for his hit on Mark Giordano.  The Flames’ five minute power play was cut short by a careless cross-checking penalty by Mike Cammalleri, but the Flames did finally get one past Marc-Andre Fleury as Cammalleri was coming out of the box.  Fleury stopped 27 of 28 shots on the night. 

Last Game for the Capitals:  Last night, a 2-1 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks.  The Sharks got on the board first at 13:30 of the first period with a goal from Tyler Kennedy, his fourth of the season.  Alex Ovechkin scored his 33rd goal of the year midway through the second period.  From there it was a goalie battle as neither Antti Niemi nor Philipp Grubauer were willing to concede anything to either side.  In the end it was Patrick Marleau scoring in the second round of the shootout that sealed the win for the Sharks.  Niemi stopped 35 of 36 shots for the Sharks while Grubauer stopped 28 of 29 for the Capitals.

Last Time These Two Teams Met:  November 20, 2013, a 4-0 win for the Penguins.  The night belonged to the Penguins as they threw 40 shots at Braden Holtby while allowing Marc-Andre Fleury to face only 18.  Paul Martin started the scoring at 6:38 of the first period when he beat Holtby with a wrist shot.  Beau Bennett scored his first of the year at 11:57 to make it 2-0.

The Penguins did not beat Holtby again until the end of the second period when Sidney Crosby took a cross-ice pass from James Neal for a bad-angle cross-body one-timer that beat Holtby on the power play.  Neal added an insurance goal at 7:16 of the third period to seal the win.

Last 10 Games for the Penguins:  7-2-1.

Last 10 Games for the Capitals:  3-3-4.:

Story of the Game:  The Capitals currently sit behind the Penguins in second place in the Metropolitan Division.  While that sounds like a nice place to be, second place in this division should come with a giant asterisk.  The Capitals have been scored on 137 times this season, more than any other second, third, or fourth place team in the league.  In the division, only the New York Islanders, sitting dead last in the Metro, have a higher number of goals against than the Capitals.  Their 137 goals for is the second-lowest among second place teams in the league.  Only the Tampa Bay Lightning have less goals scored for with 136.  The Penguins 16 point lead on the Capitals is also the largest first-to-second place differential in the league.

While this sounds like an indictment of the Washington Capitals, it is really the Metropolitan Division as a whole that is bad.  Of the four NHL divisions, only the Atlantic Division has less goals scored per team than the Metro, and that’s only because the Atlantic is dragged down by the incredibly low outlier of the Buffalo Sabres and their 77 goals scored for (the next-lowest team is the Calgary Flames with 103 goals scored for).  The Capitals would be four points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.  It is a testament to just how far the Old Atlantic Division, once considered the toughest in the NHL, has fallen in recent years.

Penguins All-Time Record Against the Capitals:  97-83-16-5.

Player to Watch on the Penguins:  Kris Letang has three points (2g-1a) in his last four games since returning from injury.

Player to Watch on the Capitals:  Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and Joel Ward all have seven points (3g-4a) in their last 10 games.