NHL Picks: Capitals Squeak By Penguins In Playoffs Game 1

Doug Upstone

Thursday, April 28, 2016 5:04 PM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016 5:04 PM UTC

While it could not happen, few hockey fans would be disappointed if this Stanley Cup playoffs series was The Finals, since these are the two best teams in the NHL picks this season and odds agree.

A quick trip over to JustBet to look at the NHL odds boards for futures has these two teams at the head of the list for the eight remaining. There is no guarantee one will complete the mission and take home The Cup, but it is a certainty the loser cannot.

Storylines, there are as many as pamphlets strewn in a parking lot after a concert. Crosby vs. Ovechkin, the goaltender matchup, special teams and team history, the list goes on and on.

Washington is favored, but only because they have home ice advantage and seeing the visitor won three of five, no reason to place much stock in that thought process.

Sid the Kid versus Ovi
When Pittsburgh and Washington met in 2009, everyone assumed this would be a near annual playoff event, but this is first get-together since. Sidney Crosby remains a premier player with great puck handling skills and still has ample speed. Alexander Ovechkin is still one of the top scoring threats in the game and can score from anywhere on the ice.

Either one could take over any game and lead their team to victory, yet for all their greatness, they have won one Stanley Cup between them, when the Penguins defeated the Capitals in the aforementioned 2009 and went on to close the deal.


Goaltending - Holtby vs. Murray
Washington Braden Holtby is among the elite goaltenders in the NHL and is supported by a deep cast of defensemen in front of him. He realizes he will have to be at his best versus Pittsburgh, who tallied 16 goals in five confrontations this season. Holtby will have to be especially prepared for Penguins quick transition game, which breaks down many opponents.

The Pens Matt Murray has to stay in the present, because if he were to think about what he's doing, he could fall apart. With 16 total starts, including the last three against the New York Rangers in playoffs, this is a lot to take in, something very similar to what Holtby did in his first year four seasons ago.

Murray does not have to be perfect, just one goal better than his counterpart. Nevertheless, having the experience does count for something, which gives the edge to Holtby.


Very Special Teams
Pittsburgh and Washington finished in the Top 5 of penalty kills during the regular season and that carried over to the postseason, where the Pens stopped 17 of 19 against the Rangers and the Capitals were near perfect 23 of 24 versus the Flyers.

The Penguins power play was run of the mill during the regular season (16th), but with Evgeni Malkin back, they possess five skilled and smart players who can create different kinds of elements on each power play, which can confuse and make opposing teams defensive. Ask New York, who allowed eight scores on 22 chances.

The Caps run a 1-3-1 power play and it's been one of the most effective for years in the NHL. They started unbelievable 8 for 17 against Philly, but missed on last 10, after Flyers started pressuring triggerman Nicklas Backstrom, which made their passing and shooting less effective.

If one club takes the lead in this category, it could turn the series.


What to Expect and Winner
I choose Washington to win The Cup (risky I know), so that means they have to win this series. Based on how these playoffs are playing out, Game 1 is extremely important, since after Nashville's upset last night, the opening game winner is perfect 8-0.

This should be fantastic start to series and a very close contest, nevertheless, Washington being 17-5 after two or more consecutive 'Unders' this season and has me backing them for NHL picks.

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Free NHL Pick: Washington Capitals -124
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline

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