NHL Semifinal Preview: Why You Should Bet On Washington
The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals will tangle in one of the most entertaining series in the Stanley Cup playoffs thus far. Pittsburgh has a powerful offense that skates circles around the opposition, as the New York Rangers found in the first round. The Capitals also have a strong offense, although not quite as quick as that of the Penguins, but they also have a rock-solid defense and are disciplined and ruthless on their special teams play. The two teams met last in the postseason in 2009, when Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin combined for 27 points in a seven-game classic, and this series looks like it will be just as good. Let’s take a look at why you should take the Capitals to win this series. Find out the latest NHL betting odds here.
NHL Semifinal Preview: Why You Should Bet On Washington To Beat Pittsburgh
The power play
It’s true that the Philadelphia Flyers pushed Washington to six games in the first round, which was one (and maybe two) more than most prognosticators had thought. In the last three games of that series, the Capitals were only able to muster two goals, so they need to work on their depth. This will begin with the power play — Washington lit the lamp eight times on power plays in that series — so we know that remains a strength of theirs.
The Capitals’ netminder was almost impossible to beat, posting a ridiculous .968 save percentage against Philadelphia, along with an icy 0.84 GAA. It’s true that the Penguins were able to make Henrik Lundqvist look like an AHL backup in the first round, but the Capitals have a much firmer defense than what the Blueshirts decided to offer the Penguins.
The Pittsburgh Penguins got through the first round with a couple of backups in goal, since Marc-Andre Fleury is still recovering from the effects of a concussion and remains day to day. Murray was pretty solid against the Rangers, but the truth is that he did not face a lot of serious tests, as the Penguins drove the action, particularly as the series wore on. Murray is a rookie, and he will face a much more ferocious attack from the Capitals. If he starts to resemble a sieve, it will be interesting if the Pens try to rush Fleury back. Jeff Zatkoff is the third option, and he played decently in Games 1 and 2 against New York, but that’s still up in the air.
Pittsburgh started this season in the toilet, but they fired their coach about a third of the way through the season and then spent the early part of 2016 vaulting up the Metropolitan Division standings. The Capitals have been consistent from wire to wire, and they still are the best in the Eastern Conference. The fact that the Flyers were able to stymie the mighty Capital offense is a concern, though, especially given the way in which Pittsburgh just made New York look silly. If you think that the Capital power play and penalty kill will enforce their will, and the Washington defense can smother Pittsburgh, then you should pick the Caps to win.