Free NHL Consensus Playoffs Picks: Penguins vs Capitals (Round 2, Game 1)
The Second Round of the NHL Playoffs kicks off on Thursday night. After the Bruins and Maple Leafs finished the First Round off with a Game 7 on Wednesday, all the matchups are set for Round 2. Thursday night kicks off with Vegas hosting San Jose and the anticipated rematch between the Capitals and Penguins. Here is my best hockey bet for April 26. Odds can be found at BetOnline.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals Predictions
The Washington Capitals will once again be tasked with taking down the Penguins in the second round. Ovechkin and Crosby have met three times in the playoffs, two of the series in the last two years. Crosby and the Penguins have gotten the better of the Capitals the first three times and now Washington will look to overcome their playoff demons.
Washington had an early scare in the first round as they fell 2-0 in the series to the Blue Jackets. The Capitals were able to win back to back matchups in Columbus to tie the series at 2-2. Washington were able to win Game 5 and Game 6 as well, taking the series 4-2. The turnaround came for Washington after Braden Holtby took over in Game 3. John Carlson was the leading scorer for the Capitals with nine points.
Pittsburgh took care of Philadelphia in a six-game series as well. The Penguins were much more dominant on the road, going a perfect 3-0. Philadelphia was able to win two of their three games in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel each scored six goals and added seven assists to lead the Penguins in scoring for the series.
The Capitals and Penguins split the regular season series 2-2. Each team went 1-1 at home. Washington outscored Pittsburgh 13-12 in the season series. The Capitals have the home ice advantage in the series, but these two teams are so close in talent, the whole series will be close.
Matt Murray will be in net for the Penguins on Thursday night. Murray finished with a save percentage of .911 and a GAA of 2.20. He had two shutouts in the first round as well. Braden Holtby was not the starter to begin the first round, but he took his starting job back when Grubauer began to struggle. Holtby posted a .932 save percentage and a 1.92 GAA in the five games he played in.
Andre Burakovsky had minor surgery during the first round of the playoffs and is doubtful to be back in the lineup for Game 1 against the Penguins. Carl Hagelin and Evgeni Malkin will both be out for Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Penguins (+111) at Washington Capitals (-123)
The Capitals have struggled to make it past the second round of the playoffs throughout the Ovechkin era. Once again Washington will have to go through Pittsburgh to make the Conference Finals. I believe that this season, Washington could finally overcome this hump, but to do so they will need to have a great opening game. Everyone in Washington knows this as well. I believe the Capitals will be able to take advantage of Hagelin and Malkin missing out on Game 1.
Washington is listed at -123, which seems like a solid number to me. This implies the Capitals will win this game 55 percent of the time. The Capitals are riding a four-game win streak into the first game of the series. They had a three-day break in between Game 6 of Round 1 and Game 1 of Round 2, which is a good number. If the Capitals continue to play with the intensity they had to take down the Blue Jackets, then I think they will give their home fans something to cheer for in Game 1.