- The Washington Capitals odds to win the Metro division have been lengthened from -317 to +107 in the span of five weeks
- Washington has lost seven of 10 and are tied with Pittsburgh for the division lead
- See the odds and prediction for the winner of the NHL’s Metro Division below
From Opening Night until the All-Star break the Washington Capitals looked like a serious threat to win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. They had a comfortable lead in the Metro division and were heavy favorites to win their fifth straight division crown.
Fast forward a few weeks and Capitals fans are pounding the panic button. The team has dropped seven of their last 10 games and have seen their average Metro Division odds lengthened from -317 on January 8, to +107 on February 20.
Metro Division Odds
|New York Islanders||+3300|
|New York Rangers||+15000|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+25000|
Odds taken on Feb. 20th
Washington now trails Pittsburgh on the odds board and its once-prolific offense has gone ice cold.
Slumping at Both Ends
The Capitals latest outing, a 4-3 overtime defeat to the lowly Montreal Canadiens, marked the sixth straight game in which they’ve failed to exceed three goals. Prior to the All-Star break, they scored at least four goals 24 times which helped mask the worst statistical season of Braden Holtby’s career.
? Shea Weber 1-1 pic.twitter.com/7h61IJjq9I
— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) February 21, 2020
Holtby was between the pipes versus the Habs on Thursday and suffered his third consecutive loss. His 3.11 GAA and .897 save percentage are the lowest marks of his 10-year career and he’s now allowed 18 goals in his last five starts. With the trade deadline looming, the Caps have already stated they’re not looking to move away from Holtby, but they did beef up their back end earlier this week.
Help is on the Way
Washington acquired defenseman Brenden Dillon, who was arguably the best blueliner available on the market. The 6’4″, 225-pounder will immediately slot in on the Capitals top pairing and should provide the perfect complement to the offensive-minded John Carlson.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 20, 2020
With the exception of Carlson, Washington’s defensive corps has been the subject of heavy criticism during their recent slump. They’ve allowed 3.6 goals per game since the All-Star break and will need to improve quickly if they’re going to surpass the Penguins atop the Metro division.
March of the Penguins
Despite Thursday’s 4-0 loss in Toronto, Pittsburgh has won 12 of its past 17 games and has been getting elite production from Sidney Crosby. The two-time Hart Trophy winner has been on fire since returning from a core injury, producing 23 points in 14 games.
Sidney Crosby registered his 34th career game with at least four points – the most among all players since making his NHL debut in 2005-06.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 19, 2020
While the rival Capitals have been struggling defensively, the Penguins have been excelling thanks to Tristan Jarry. The Pittsburgh netminder has been sensational this season posting a 20-8-1 record, with a 2.13 GAA and a .931 save percentage. He ranks second among NHL goalies in both key categories and his strong play has helped the Pens overcome a rash of key injuries.
Both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have missed extended stretches of action, while Jake Guentzel, the team’s third-leading scorer, and Brian Dumoulin, who ranks second in total ice-time, are currently on IR.
We’ve Seen This Story Before From Washington
While it may be tempting to bet the Pens to win the Metro division, let’s not forget we’ve seen prolonged slumps from Washington in the past. In 2017-18, they dropped eight of 13 games between February and early March, before winning 14 of their final 19 regular season games. The Caps rode that momentum into the playoffs and two months later were Stanley Cup champions.
Despite the recent power outage on offense, they still have one of the most talented teams in the league. They rank third in the NHL in scoring, and it’s only a matter of time before they start filling the net again. The defensive issues are more concerning, but Dillon should help stabilize that unit and the team is still looking to be active before the deadline.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has limited trade resources to offer and will be hard-pressed to improve their club. They’ve been able to overcome key injuries so far, but the loss of Guentzel and Dumoulin are big blows. Both the Pens and Caps are currently tied atop the Metro division with 80 points and I’d much rather take plus-money with the healthier team.
Pick: Capitals (+110)
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