- The average odds of the Pittsburgh Penguins winning the Metropolitan Division have improved from +830 to +430 since Dec. 16
- Pittsburgh has won three straight and 10 of 12 games
- However, the Penguins remain seven points behind the division-leading Capitals
Could the Pittsburgh Penguins catch the Washington Capitals and win the NHL’s Metropolitan Division title? Logically, the answer looks to be no: the Capitals have a seven-point lead and show no signs of slowing down. But the Penguins are a team that’s defied logic all season long.
Despite a season-long rash of injuries, the Penguins continue to roll along and climb in the standings. Captain Sidney Crosby, a two-time winner of the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP, has missed the last 22 games after undergoing surgery for a lower-body injury.
Pittsburgh currently lists six players on the injured list. Yet the Penguins have won three straight games and 10 of their past 12.
Across the leading sportsbooks, they have improved from +830 to +430 in the Metropolitan Division odds since Dec. 16.
2019-20 NHL Metropolitan Division Odds
|New York Islanders||+550|
|New York Rangers||+10000|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+15000|
|New Jersey Devils||+100000|
Odds taken Dec. 31st .
Pittsburgh hasn’t topped the Metropolitan Division standings since the 2013-14 season.
Penguins Win Game, Lose Guentzel
Another victory. Another loss.
It what’s become a familiar pattern in Pittsburgh this season, the Penguins whipped the Ottawa Senators 5-2 on Monday. They also lost forward Jake Guentzel for 4-6 months after he crashed head first into the boards.
Scoring his third point of the night at 6:55 of the third period, Guentzel fell after colliding with Senators defenseman Thomas Chabot. He did not return and word Tuesday morning was that he’d undergo shoulder surgery.
Guentzel, who has 20 goals this season, was named to the NHL All-Star Game on Monday.
The Penguins have lost 156 man games to injury so far this season. Along with Crosby, forward Nick Bjugstad (lower-body, 20 games) and defensemen Brian Dumoulin (lower-body, 12) and Justin Schultz (lower-body, 4) are also currently on the shelf.
Forward Patric Hornqvist recently returned from injury. He’s missed 16 games this season. Forwards Evgeni Malkin (13 games) and Alex Galchenyuk (8 games) and defenseman Kris Letang (8 games) have also spent significant time on the injured list.
Malkin Makes His Mark
Traditionally, when Crosby goes down, Malkin steps up. That’s been the case again this season.
He’s currently riding a six-game point streak. He’s registered 7-17-24 totals in the past 13 games.
— NHL (@NHL) December 31, 2019
When Crosby is in the lineup, Malkin averages 1.15 points per game. When Crosby is out of the lineup, Malkin averages 1.36 PPG. This season, he’s collected 11 goals and 32 points while Crosby’s been idled.
Pittsburgh has accumulated a 14-5-3 record in the 22 games that Crosby has missed due to injury.
Is Catching Capitals A Realistic Goal?
With a point awarded for overtime and shootout losses, the chances of the Penguins closing the seven-point gap and catching the Capitals are not high.
One advantage for Pittsburgh is that the Penguins and Capitals have yet to meet on the ice this season.
Most Wins in Decade:
465 Washington Capitals
464 Pittsburgh Penguins
452 St. Louis Blues
446 Boston Bruins
441 Tampa Bay Lightning pic.twitter.com/2OLqqmliZB
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) December 31, 2019
They aren’t slated to face each other until Feb. 2nd. The Pens and Caps also play on Feb. 23rd, March 7th, and March 22nd.
If the Penguins were to sweep those games via four regulation victories, that would certainly help their cause in terms of chasing down Washington.
That’s a real longshot, though. Traditionally, the Penguins haven’t been big on finishing first. The last four times Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup, the Pens weren’t a first-place team during the regular season.
Pick: Washington Capitals (-280)
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