By Carl Curtis
The Caps kicked things off as -135 favorites and has held steady in that range at the majority of sportsbooks. The total has also held firm at 6.5, with virtually even odds on the OVER and the UNDER.
It has been nearly three months since the Penguins have had to overcome back-to-back sluggish games – but losses to Toronto and Buffalo by a combined 9-2 count have Pittsburgh scrambling to regain its form. And it’ll face a stiff test in its quest to claim the division crown, with eight of its next 11 games played away from PPG Paints Arena.
That road-heavy stretch should provide a major challenge for a Penguins power-play that has looked vastly better than it did earlier in the season. While Pittsburgh owns the league’s No. 9 man advantage at home (24.7 percent), it has operated at a dismal 17.8-percent clip on the road (20th-best in the NHL) and has seen the third-fewest away PP opportunities (73).
Was Alex Ovechkin’s quest for his 700th career goal a distraction to the Capitals? That might be a stretch, but it’s safe to say that both Ovechkin and his teammates are probably glad that he finally scored that 700th goal in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to New Jersey. Ovechkin has just two goals over his previous seven games, during which Washington has produced just one victory.
Getting off to a good start Sunday afternoon would certainly help the Capitals finally end their extended woes – but that won’t be easy. Washington has scored just 53 first-period goals on the season (ranking 18th in the league in that category) and will meet stiff resistance from a Penguins side that has surrendered just 44 first-period tallies, third-fewest in the NHL.
Betting Pick: UNDER 6.5
Fans might see Pens-Caps and think “goal party!”, but these teams have played plenty of low-scoring games in recent memory – particularly in D.C. – and this one should be no different.