Three Observations Heading Into the Penguins and Capitals Game

The Pens Nation Gameday Report

By: Casey Johnston (@CaseyR82)

Crosby and Ovechkin Still a Rivarly?

There was a time when Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin had the biggest rivalry in the NHL of any two players.  Whether or not you think the league was forcing the matchup upon you, these were the two best players in the NHL, and their performances on the ice showed that they really did not like each other.  Whether it was a weeknight game in November, a Sunday afternoon game in March, or a playoff game in April, matchups between the Penguins and Capitals that featured Crosby and Ovechkin had an intensity that comes with heated rivalries.

Tonight will be the 28th meeting between these two players.  So far, the Penguins’ record when these two are in the lineup is 18-7-2.  Crosby has 46 points to Ovechkin’s 33.  The goal scoring is a little less lop-sided with Ovechkin leading that race 18-15.  The rivalry died down a little with Crosby’s injuries and Ovechkin’s scoring issue.  Now that Crosby is healthy, Ovechkin is scoring, and the Penguins and the Capitals play in the same division, can this rivalry regain the momentum that it had in the early part of their careers?

Malkin Carrying the Penguins

While people have been paying attention to Sidney Crosby and the situation on his right wing, Evgeni Malkin has been quietly carrying the Penguins for the last 10 games.  In that 10 game span Malkin has produced 13 points (5g-8a) to Crosby’s 10 (2g-8a).  Malkin’s linemates have been performing well too with James Neal getting 10 points (5g-5a) and Jussi Jokinen producing 9 points (1g-8a).  Chris Kunitz has a mere 3 goals and no assists while Brian Gibbons, the most common right winger for Crosby, has 2 goals and an assist.  In the last 10 games, Malkin’s line has produced 16 points at even strength while Crosby’s has 4.  For the season, at even strength the line of Malkin, Neal, and Jokinen has combined for 48 points while Crosby, Kunitz, and Gibbons have 13 (Crosby, Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis still lead the team with 57 despite Dupuis being injured since 12.23.13).  While the play of Crosby’s line is concerning, be sure to pay attention to the “second” line so you can appreciate what is happening.

Capitals Pushing For a Playoff Spot

The Capitals currently sit in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division.  Just a few weeks ago we may have been commenting on how embarrassing that is in this bad division, but the top half of the Metro is heating up down the stretch.  The Capitals, Rangers, and Blue Jackets are all 6-3-1 in their last 10 games while the Flyers are 7-2-1.  If the season ended today, the Capitals would be two spots back from the final wild card spot, losing to the Blue Jackets by a point.  As always, wins will be at a premium going down the stretch as Washington has 17 games to earn that spot.  Unloading Martin Erat and picking up Dustin Penner will be a help as the Capitals currently have a goal differential of -6.  Having a guy like Penner, who likes to play in front of the net, will help with that.  Taking at least one of these home-and-home games against the Penguins would also help the cause.