Upcoming Match-ups

Washington Capitals -135 Favorites in Season Series Opener Versus Pittsburgh Penguins

Michael Luciano

by Michael Luciano in NHL Hockey

Feb 2, 2020 · 7:32 AM PST

Alex Ovechkin close up photo during stoppage in play
Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time this season on Super Bowl Sunday. Photo by Michael Miller (Wiki Commons).
  • High-scoring home team Washington hosts the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday  
  • Both teams enter the contest having won seven of their last 10 games
  • Top players expected to shine for both teams – read below for our betting preview

The Washington Capitals are the home favorites at -135 as they prepare for their first game against the Pittsburgh Penguins this season. Both teams are riding a lot of momentum going into this Sunday afternoon match, having each won seven of their last 10 contests and eight in January. The Penguins have won six of their last 10 regular season games against the Capitals, in what’s considered one of the NHL’s most iconic rivalries.

Capitals vs Penguins Odds

Team Spread Money Line Total
Penguins +115 +1.5 (-200) O 6.5 (-135)
Capitals -135 -1.5 (+170) U 6.5 (+115)

*Odds taken February 1

Capitals Home Games Have Been High-Scoring

Of Washington’s 25 home games this season, 19 saw a total of six of more goals scored. A total of seven or more goals were scored in 17 of those 19 contests. Of the six homes games Washington played in January, four of them had a total of seven or more goals scored.

In Pittsburgh’s 24 road games, 14 had a total of six or more goals scored. Of those 14 games, 12 saw a total of seven of more goals scored. It’s worth noting, however that five of the last eight games between these teams saw fewer than five-and-a-half goals scored. This makes the game’s total of 6.5 very compelling, and it’s unsurprising why the over is favorited at -135.

Penguins Have the Edge in Possession

Pittsburgh currently ranks in the top-six in the league for advanced stats recording a team’s possession, including, Fenwick (unblocked shot attempts), total shots (SF), scoring (SCF) and high danger (HDCF) chances, along with goals from scoring (SCGF), and high danger (HDGF) chances. The only category they rank outside that is in Corsi-For (total shot attempts) in even strength situations, where they rank ninth.

The Capitals rank no higher than seventh in these categories, but no lower than 15th at five-on-five. Simply put, Pittsburgh has a notable advantage in five-on-five possession. Both teams average practically identical numbers in shots for and against per game. The Penguins have averaged 32.1, while facing 29.8 shots. The Capitals are getting a mean of 32.3 shots per game on net, while surrendering 29.7 shots per game.

Top Players Expected to Play Big Role for Both Teams

For the Capitals, five players (Alexander Ovechkin, Jakub Vrana, John Carlson, Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom) have tallied 10 or more points in their last 11 contests, with Ovechkin leading the pack (13 goals, 15 points in 10 games). For the Penguins, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust respectively have 15 points in their last 12 games, while Sidney Crosby has 11 points in his last six contests.

Those same stars have been prominent in this particular head-to-head rivalry. In their last eight games against Pittsburgh, Ovechkin, Carlson, and TJ Oshie each have eight points. Malkin and Crosby have 12 and 10 points, respectively, in each of their last eight games against Washington.

Best Bets

This Sunday afternoon bout features two of the Eastern Conference and league’s top teams. Although the Capitals currently enjoy a six-point cushion over Pittsburgh in the standings, today’s game could set a precedent the next three times these teams play each other this season.

While both teams have superior scoring, defense, and goaltending, Pittsburgh’s strong possession numbers could give them an under-the-radar advantage that puts them over the top—don’t take possession numbers for granted (The Pacific Division won the All-Star tournament with a roster filled with high-possession players and were an underdog).

The pick: Pittsburgh Penguins (+115), Over 6.5 (-135)

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