East Semis Game 1: Can Capitals Finally End Playoff Jinx vs. Penguins?

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 2:08 PM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 25, 2018 2:08 PM UTC

The NHL’s conference semifinals begin on Thursday night with a marquee matchup between Sidney Crosby’s Penguins and Alex Ovechkin’s Capitals from D.C.

Game 1 East Semifinals: Pittsburgh at WashingtonFree NHL Pick: CapitalsBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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With all due respect to the other three conference semifinals in the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s no argument as to which the marquee matchup is: Pittsburgh vs. Washington. Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin. Game 1 of the series is Thursday night from D.C. at 7 ET and shown nationally in the USA on the NBC Sports Network.

Crosby and Ovechkin are the best players of their generation, each on the all-time Top-10 list and first-ballot Hall of Famers. Ovechkin has the better individual statistics – he’s already a member of the 600-goal club and has won the Rocket Richard Trophy seven times – but Ovi has yet to even play in the conference finals. Crosby, meanwhile, has three Stanley Cup rings.

The Penguins have won five Stanley Cups in their history; in all five of those playoff runs, they eliminated Washington on the way. That includes the past two postseasons in the East semifinals despite the Capitals having home-ice advantage as they do here. The Caps have reached a single Stanley Cup Finals, losing in 1998 to Detroit. Washington has lost its past six playoff series to Pittsburgh.

On the Sports Interaction series line, Pittsburgh is a -133 favorite with Washington at -105. You can also bet on Crosby (-118) vs. Ovechkin (+130) for most points in the series, with a draw at +485. The favorite to win the Stanley Cup remains Nashville (+400).

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We mic'd one player in Game 6.

We think we hit the Jakepot. pic.twitter.com/IGbEVBdQMP

— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 23, 2018

Pens, Caps Both Advanced in 6

Pittsburgh finished off Philadelphia in six games on Sunday; the Penguins scored at least five goals in each of their wins and totaled three in the two losses. Crosby was magnificent with six goals and seven assists vs. the Flyers, while young Jake Guentzel had the exact same line. The 23-year-old became only the second player in NHL history to score four consecutive goals -- a streak uninterrupted by either team – in the clinching Game 6. Tim Kerr of the Flyers also did it in Game 3 of the 1985 quarterfinals against the Rangers. Not even Crosby has scored four goals in a playoff game. The only other Penguins to do it were Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens.

The Penguins played Game 6 without their other superstar, Evgeni Malkin, due to a lower-body injury. He hadn’t practiced as of Tuesday and is being called day-to-day. Malkin had three goals and two assists in his five games vs. Philly. Meanwhile, left winger Carl Hagelin left Game 6 with an upper-body injury and also hadn’t practiced as of Tuesday. He’s also day-to-day. Aren’t we all? Hagelin had two goals and an assist vs. the Flyers. (Update: both are out for Game 1).

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1.92 GAA - .932 save pct. - 4 wins

Top 10 #HoltBeast Saves of Round 1#ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/D59IkZ0dGw

— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 24, 2018

Washington made history in its six-game series win over Columbus, becoming the first team ever to lose its first two games of a playoff series at home in overtime and still win the series. Philipp Grubauer started the first two games in net but was pulled in Game 2 and hasn’t seen the ice since. It will be Braden Holtby in Game 1. Ovechkin had five goals – he’s the first Capital ever with 50 career playoff goals -- and three assists in the series. Defenseman John Carlson led the club with nine points, eight of those assists.

The Penguins and Capitals split four meetings this season, last playing April 1 in Pittsburgh, a 3-1 Caps victory. Matt Murray started all four in net for Pittsburgh and had a GAA of 3.01 and .899 save percentage. Malkin led with six points. Crosby had three assists. Ovechkin led Washington with five points. Holtby played in three and was 1-2-0 with a 3.60 GAA and .897 SV.

  • Penguins are 2-9 in their last 11 after scoring 5 goals or more in their previous game.
  • Capitals are 11-4 in their last 15 games following a win.
  • Under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings.

I believe Washington finally breaks its Pittsburgh curse in this series and takes Game 1 for a Thursday NHL pick – confidence level even higher with Malkin out.

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