While the rivalry between Alex Ovechkin and the two Pittsburgh Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is not as intense as it once was, the games in which they all compete on the same ice are always entertaining. The group of star forwards have always been in the conversation as the best player in the NHL for years. However, only Malkin has a legitimate case at this point after winning the Art Ross, Ted Lindsay, and Hart trophies last season. Crosby has missed a large chunk of games due to injuries while Ovechkin had a career-low 65 points last season. Crosby is off to a good start once again this season and also had a great points-per-game ratio once when he returned last season. If yesterday’s performance against the Devils was any indication of how Crosby will play for the rest of the season, the rest of the league is in trouble.
Regardless of who is considered the best player in the NHL, the Penguins (Update) will take on the Capitals (2-5-1) at the Verizon Center at 12:30 PM on this Super Sunday.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero made a bold move by trading a seventh round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft to the Washington Capitals for goaltender Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun wasted no time in signing with the team as his two-year, $4 million contract was announced minutes later. Coming off a 3-0 shutout against the New York Rangers on Friday night, Vokoun has been nothing but spectacular for Pittsburgh. The 36-year old veteran has compiled a 2-1 record in 4 appearances this season in addition to a 1.81 goals-against average and .940 save-percentage. His goals-against average and save-percentage are ranked seventh and fifth nest in the NHL, respectively. After spending time with Montreal, Nashville, and Florida, Vokoun has compiled a 10-12-1 record against his former team to go along with a 2.48 goals-against average in 23 games against Washington.
THIRD TIME’S A CHARM
The Penguins finally found a way to win at the CONSOL Energy Center in the 2013 NHL season yesterday with a huge 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils that propelled the team to first place in the Atlantic division. The first two home games against Toronto and the New York Islanders were not very memorable, but yesterday’s game was for many reasons. First, Sidney Crosby started to look like the Crosby of old by notching a goal and two assists in the game. Chris Kunitz, who was a game-time decision prior to the game, also recorded a goal and two assists like Crosby. Second, Marc-Andre Fleury looked sharp in between the pipes by stopping 15 of 16 shots against him. Last, but certainly not least, it was a day of firsts for two Penguins players. Brandon Sutter, who was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes over the summer, scored his first goal as a member of the Penguins. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who has battled through injuries and many years in the AHL, earned his first goal of his NHL career. He could not have been happier after the game.
“I was able to get it off pretty quick. There were five pretty big smiles on the ice. Mine was probably the biggest. I’ll have that for years to come now.”
- Robert Bortuzzo
AN OFFSEASON OF CHANGES
The 2012 offseason was special for former Capitals player Adam Oates. After recording 1420 career points in the NHL in 1337 games, Oates was inducted in to the Hockey Hall of Fame on June 26, 2012. On that same day, it was announced that Oates was named the new head coach of the Capitals. After former Washington coach Bruce Boudreau was fired in 2011, Dale Hunter took over the team and led Washington to a surprising playoff run. After the Capitals lost in the semi-finals, Hunter chose to return to the London Knights of the OHL to coach and leave the Capitals. Therefore, Oates is Washington’s third head coach in a little over a year. The Capitals are off to a 2-5-1 start, but did manage to beat the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night. Shortly before Oates was hired, the Capitals acquired center Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars for Cody Eakin and a second round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Washington’s former 40 goal scorer Alexander Semin left the team for Carolina as he signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Hurricanes. To help fill that void on wing, the Capitals chose to sign Wojtek Wolski to a low-risk, one-year deal worth $600,000.
The Penguins have won the season series against the Capitals five times in the past ten seasons.
Sidney Crosby has averaged about 1.5 points-per-game against the Capitals in his career. Crosby has notched 13 goals and 22 assists in 22 games against Washington. Evgeni Malkin has also fared well against Ovechkin and the Capitals in his career, recording 29 points (8 goals and 21 assists) in 20 games.
Penguins defenseman Simon Despres recorded his first NHL point against the Capitals on December 1, 2011.
Alex Ovechkin has enjoyed success against Pittsburgh, notching 20 goals and 16 assists in 28 games against the Penguins. 4 of those points (2 goals and 2 assists) came against Pittsburgh last season.
In 18 games against the Penguins in his career, Capitals leading scorer center Mike Ribeiro has notched 20 points (6 goals and 14 assists).
Another point-per-game player against Pittsburgh in his career is center Nicklas Backstrom. The 25-year old has only scored 1 goal, but has set up a goal 23 times against the Penguins.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby will get his first taste of the Washington-Pittsburgh rivalry today as he will make his first career start against the Penguins. In 3 appearances this season, Holtby has compiled a 1-2 record with a 4.02 goals-against average and .885 save-percentage.
The past five games between these two teams have been one-goal games.
Probable Capitals lines
Probable Penguins lines
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