PENS GAME #14: PENGUINS AT CAPITALS
The Penguins dropped another loss to the New Jersey Devils on Monday, extending their season-worst losing streak to 4 games. Now they march into Washington to face their biggest foe, the reigning Cup champion Capitals, on NBC Sport's "Wednesday Night Rivalry" series. It's always a heated match-up that's now intensified by the Pens desperate need to stem what has started to turn into a flood of losses. A crucial night is ahead for Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Penguins (6-4-3) at Washington Capitals (6-4-3) at Capital One Center in Washington, D.C. at 7:30PM (EST)
The Pens are at 4 consecutive losses for the first time this year, and just the 2nd time ever under the reign of Head Coach Mike Sullivan. They have never lost 5 in a row under Sullivan. They're staring down making some unprecedented history for this group and not in a good way.
In their last 2 games the Penguins have given up 10 goals total. Defense all around from forwards and back is the problematic issue. The goaltending simply has no way to answer for so many repetitive high danger scoring chances. And forwards' production has been bogged down by the Centers having to fill in on the massive gaps in defense. The slot has been wide open and free to all opposing teams, who have taken up residence there with glee. And now the Penguins face a team loaded with dangerous offensive weapons in Washington. The Pens worst areas of struggle will be threatened by a team with snipers who made their careers off of carving up these slots like a Thanksgiving turkey. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, all almost specially tailored to excel in the areas the Penguins are currently floundering in. If the Caps are on their game for this meeting, it could be an extremely long night for Pittsburgh, who'd be left without much of an answer given their current make-up. (That current look as been altered a lot since Monday's game which you can read about in depth HERE if you're interested.)
However despite the Capitals unique qualifications for facing the Pens' particular current struggles, they haven't been in the greatest of shape of late either. While not of the same consecutive loss skid, they're still 2-3 in their last 5 games. And as they hung around producing mediocre results for longer, while the Penguins' went on a hot streak in late October up in Canada, the 2 teams are actually situated in back-to-back in the standings. They have 15 points each and the exact same 6W-4L-3OTL records. The Pens take the tie-breaking edge and as such are 8th in the Eastern Conference and 3rd in the Metro Division. While the Caps stand 9th in the East and follow behind as 4th in the Metro.
Washington is looking not just to leap-frog the Pens in the standings tonight but they're trying to avenge the 7-6 loss to the Pens in the Pittsburgh Home Opener.
So here's the rundown on "Rivalry Night"....
PENS BULLET POINTS
MATCH-UP INFORMATIONAL BREAKDOWN
Casey DeSmith: 27-years-old, 6’0”/181lb, 1 year NHL Veteran, Undrafted (Records- 2018-19: 2W-0L-2OTL in 7GP; Last Season: 6W-4L-1OTL in 14GP; Career: 7W-4L-3OTL in 17GP | Goals Against Average- 2018-19: 2.25, Last Season: 2.40; Career: 2.36)
Braden Holtby: 29-years-old, 6'2"/211lb, 8 year NHL Veteran, 2008 Round 4 Draft Pick (Records- 2018-19 vs Pens: 0W-0L-1OTL in 1GP; 2018-19 Overall: 4W-3L-2OTL in 10GP; Last Season: 34W-16L-4OTL in 54GP; Career: 229W-92L-37OTL in 371GP | Goals Against Average- 2018-19: 3.62; Last Season: 2.99; Career: 2.44)
Penguins: 15 Points, Metropolitan Division- 3rd, Eastern Conference- 8th
Capitals: 15 Points, Metropolitan Division- 8th, Eastern Conference- 9th
Penguins: 4 Losses
Capitals: 1 Win
Goals For & Against:
Penguins: Goals For- 46; Goals Against- 45
Capitals: Goals For- 50; Goals Against- 49
Home vs. Away Records:
Penguins Away Record: 4-0-2
Capitals Home Record: 4-1-2
Team Physical Averages:
Penguins: Average Size- 6'1"/199lbs, Average Age- 28.04
Capitals: Average Size- 6'1"/204 lbs, Average Age- 27.22
Penguins Alumni for WSH: Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik(+), Head Coach Todd Reirden
Capitals Alumni for PIT: Ast. Coach Sergei Gonchar
Penguins WSH Locals: None
Capitals PIT Locals: None
-Goals- #1-Malkin/Kessel (7), #2-Crosby (6), #3-Guentzel (5)
-Assists- #1-Malkin (13), #2-Kessel (9), #3-Crosby/Letang (8)
-Points- #1-Malkin (20), #2-Kessel (16), #3- Crosby (14)
-Shots- #1-Letang (41), #2-Kessel (36), #3-Hornqvist (35)
-Goals- #1-Ovechkin (11), #2-Oshie (7), #3-Kuzentsov (6)
-Assists- #1-Backstrom (13), #2-Kuznetsov (12), #3-Carlson (11)
-Points- #1-Kuznetsov (18), #2-Ovechkin (17), #3-Carlson/Backstrom (16)
-Shots- #1-Ovechkin (50), #2- Kuznetsov (36), #3-Oshie (31)
-Penguins vs. Capitals History-
Cup Count: Pens- 5, Capitals- 1
Season Series vs. Capitals: 1-0 (With 7 Goals For, 6 Goals Against)
Last Season Series vs. Capitals: 1W-3L (With 10 Goals For, 13 Goals Against)
All-Time Record vs. Capitals: 109W-92L-16T-5OTL in 222GP
All-Time Record at Capital One Center: 18W-16L-3T-3OTL in 40GP
FINAL NOTES ON THE GAME
-Pens Roster Moves: Juuso Riikola (D), Derek Grant (F), & Daniel Sprong (F) are out in favor of Chad Ruhwedel (D), Zach Aston-Reese (F), and Garrett Wilson (F). Casey DeSmith also gets the start over Matt Murray as mentioned. (Derick Brassard and Justin Schultz are still out due to injury as well.)
-Ex-Pen Brooks Orpik will not play for Washington due to injury, he's there only injury issue.
-Jamie Oleksiak will play his 200th NHL game tonight.
-Pens are looking for their 110th all-time win over Washington tonight.
-Conversely Braden Holtby of the Caps could get his 230th career win tonight.
-After his goal against NJ defenseman Jamie Oleksiak has 4 goals on the season. Only 5 NHL D-men have more.
-After Monday’s game Kris Letang has regained the team lead in shots for the year, over Patric Hornqvist, with 41. (Letang only lost the lead essentially as he sat out that one game. He then picked up 7 shots in the game vs. NJD.) #58 is also back into the top 3 on team in assists.
-One positive marker in Pens favor going up vs. Caps on the road still- they remain undefeated in regulation while "away" at 4-0-2.
-There are still 2 milestone scenarios up for grabs- Kris Letang is 1 assist from tying Syl Apps for 6th on the Pens' All-Time Assists list at 349. And Matt Murray is 1 shutout from overtaking Johan Hedberg as sole #4 on the Pens' All-Time Shutouts list with 8.
EXTRA MISC. THOUGHTS & INFO
*You can bid on the Penguins' special purple "Hockey Fights Cancer" Night practice jerseys worn before Monday's game online HERE.
*Garrett Wilson is wearing #10 with the Penguins. He originally used #19 in his last various pre-season appearances with the team, but that number is now occupied by roster mainstay Derick Brassard.
*In some huge league news, the Blackhawks fired the reigning longest tenured coach and 3x Cup winner Joel Quenneville in a shocking move yesterday. Quenneville is not expect to be out of work for long with Detroit and St. Louis being mentioned as landing spots.
*Jeremy Colliton is Chicago's new head coach. He is now the NHL's youngest head coach at 33.
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