Tuesday’s NHL slate has six games for us to dive into. I’ve found two games that really stand out to me.
Since 2005, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have provided us with fireworks. Alexander Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby has provided us with a matchup of two all-time greats. We’ve seen these teams go through each other in the playoffs in order to win championships.
While the stakes won’t be quite that high in Tuesday’s matchup, there’s always intrigue when these two teams get together.
The Washington Capitals started the season 6-0-3, but have since lost four straight games.
Truth be told, the Capitals weren’t good enough to be 6-0-3. Of course, the Capitals are better than 0-4 would indicate as well.
The Capitals rank in the bottom-ten of the league in both expected-goal (xG) rate and shot attempt rate. Defensively, they rank middle of the pack. However, offensively, they rank 25th in terms of xG scored per hour at 5-on-5.
You’re probably saying, “well who cares about that when the Capitals are stacked.” And you would have a point. Ovechkin is arguably the greatest goal-scorer of our generation. Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, Jakub Vrana and TJ Oshie help make up a prolific top-6 forward group. Evgeny Kuznetsov recently returned from an extended stint on the Covid list as well. John Carlson might be the most feared offensive defenseman in hockey. There’s no arguing the talent level.
However, you need to be able to generate offense at 5-on-5. The Capitals have survived due to their elite talent level and their powerplay. It can work, but you would really want to be better at 5-on-5 since most of the game is played there.
Like the Capitals, the Penguins have plenty of firepower up front. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are generational talents. Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust add scoring touch from the wings. Kris Letang remains one of the smoother skating offensive defensemen in the sport.
However, unlike the Capitals, Pittsburgh remains middle of the road in goals per game. Their powerplay ranks in the bottom third of the league, which is a huge shock when you look at the players on it.
Both these teams’ main issue right now is between the pipes.
Vitek Vanecek has been thrust into the starting goalie role for Washington due to Covid issues with usual starter Ilya Samsonov. Vanecek has posted a -5.96 goals saved above expectation (GSAx) which is a bottom ten mark in the league. Samsonov is nearing a return, but he gave up five goals in a start with Washington’s minor league team this past weekend as he tries to get his conditioning back.
Tristan Jarry was tasked with taking over the crease after the trade of Matt Murray in the offseason, and so far, it’s not going so well. Jarry has the 4th worst GSAx in the league. Back-up Casey DeSmith has been better, but his -1.69 GSAx mark doesn’t inspire confidence either.
These teams played on Sunday, and the over hit in the second period. Pittsburgh has played just one game this year where they held their opponent to less than three goals. Both teams rank bottom five in terms of goals against per game.
I think we will see goals once again on Tuesday.
Bet: Over 6.5 Goals @ -115
Hey New Jersey, nice to see you again.
The Devils last played a hockey game in January. Since then, they have seen 17 players go on the Covid-list. Four players remain on the list as of Monday night.
That’s two and a half weeks without hockey for the Devils. We’re not just talking about no games. This team’s facility has been shut down most of this time. Most of the team got Covid, so they have to deal with the effects of that. They were forced to isolate and had to work out at home if they were able to.
It seems like a lot for any team to deal with.
Oh yeah, New Jersey isn’t very good to begin with. Most had them pegged to finish the season in last place in the East division.
So while it’s impossible to project exactly what we’ll see from a team that had a novel virus run through their locker-room and hasn’t played hockey for 16 days, we can make assumptions.
The Colorado Avalanche returned from an extended break and they were shutout in their first game. The Buffalo Sabres also returned from an extended break on Monday night, and their conditioning was so poor they couldn’t record a shot on goal in the third period against the Islanders.
We’re seeing a trend, and New Jersey doesn’t strike me as the team to break that trend.
The Rangers will likely be without Artemi Panarin, which is obviously a blow, but they have the talent to survive in his absence. It’s only a matter of time until Mika Zibanejad figures it out and gets going. Players like Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan Strome, Chris Kreider, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko have too much talent to be held quiet for long.
New York has done a great job improving their defensive play from last season. They just played a hard fought 1-0 loss against the Boston Bruins in their last game. They’ve given up just nine goals in their last five games.
So while New York was playing close, hard fought games against the best team in the division, the Devils were doing jumping jacks in their living room trying to fight off a virus.
I hate to lay this much juice in hockey, but at -145, it’s implied the Rangers only win this game 59% of the time. I think it’s closer to 65%, so I’m willing to lay the juice against a bad team going through a crazy situation.
Pick: New York Rangers ML @ -145
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Expert NHL Picks
Capitals at Penguins - Over 6.5 Goals @ -115 (Click To Bet)
Devils at Rangers - New York Rangers ML @ -145 (Click To Bet)
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