Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Capitals take their nine-game winning streak north to Pittsburgh for a tilt with the Penguins on Monday night. It’s a bit hard to believe, but this will be the final game of the regular season series between the two teams. Puck drop is 7:00PM, on NBCSN.
The Penguins (26-11-5) have been wobbling a bit as of late, losing their last three games in a row. The Penguins fell to the Detrot Red Wings 6-3 on Saturday, in their final visit to Joe Lewis Arena. “We didn’t play the right way again; we are trying to outscore teams instead of outplaying them,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “When we do that, we are an ordinary team.”
In addition, Kris Letang was injured in the game against Detroit on Saturday. Letang would leave the game in the second period and not return. The Penguins placed Letang on injured reserve on Monday, and recalled Guentzel and Ruhwedel.
The Pens are also without the services of defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who is out with a broken jaw.
The Penguins have quickly fallen to third in the Metropolitan Division, 6 points behind the Capitals and five points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Marc-Andre Fleury got the start in the Pens last game in Detroit, but gave up three goals in both the second and third periods. Matt Murray has returned from injury, and was the first player off the ice at Monday’s morning skate, so it appears he will get the start against the Capitals.
The Penguins power play is still doing well, currently ranked 4th in the league with a 22.8% success rate. On the flip-side, Pittsburgh penalty kill continues to be at the bottom of the league, currently ranked 25th in the league with a 78.2 success rate, for a combined special teams index of 101.0.
The Penguins remain atop the league in shot attempts per game with an average of 34.6 per game. However, the Penguins are giving up the 5th most shot attempts per game, at an average of 32.6 per game. The Penguins are +21 in goal differential through 42 games.
The Capitals (29-9-5) are finding it difficult to do anything wrong, winning their last 9-straight games. During the winning streak, the Capitals have outscored their opponents 40-11, and shutout opponents in four of the last six games (a first in franchise history).
#Capitals have outscored opponents 40-11 in their last nine games.
— Dan Clark (@DanClarkSports) January 15, 2017
With nine-straight wins, the Capitals are now alone in first place in the Metropolitan Division, and also have the most points in the NHL.
The Capitals are relatively healthy after Sunday’s game with the Flyers, with the exception of John Carlson, who left the game with a lower body injury after the first period. He has made the trip to Pittsburgh and is listed as “possible” for the Penguins game, and ha
Washington has been extremely stingy behind the blue line as of late. The Capitals have not allowed an even-strength goal in the last six games, and both Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer are playing at a very high level.
The Capitals are now 15th in the league in power plays with an 18.5 conversion rate. The Capitals penalty kill has climbed to second in the league, just behind the Carolina Hurricanes, with an 86.5 success rate, for a combined special teams index of 105.0, their highest rating of the season.
The Capitals are 12th in the league in shot attempts per game at an average of 30.3 shots per game. The Capitals are giving up the 6th fewest shots per game in the league at an average of 27.8 shots per game. The Capitals are +45 in goal differential through 43 games.
The Capitals have outscored the Penguins 12-3 in their last two meetings, both at Verizon Center. The Capitals lost on opening night, 3-2 in overtime, in their only visit to Pittsburgh this season. Back in November, the Capitals scorched the Penguins 7-1 in the first game at Verizon Center.
An odd stat for the game: Pittsburgh currently has the longest losing streak in the NHL, even though it’s just three games. The Capitals have the longest winning streak at nine games.
The two teams met last week at Verizon Center, with the Capitals taking it 5-2. Alex Ovechkin notched his 1,000th NHL point just 35 seconds into the contest.
By Jon Sorensen