The Pittsburgh Penguins (9-6-1) have nine wins this season but just two Ws outside the friendly confines of PPG Paints Arena. They are one of two teams in the NHL with a negative goal differential but a winning record, but the other is the Washington Capitals (9-5-3), and the two will meet at the Capital One Arena on Tuesday night.
It’s also the Penguins’ second reverse retro jersey night (hence the jersey photos above).
The Penguins and Washington are among the top five MassMutual East Division teams, but only the top four will make the playoffs. The Penguins are tied at 19 points with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have a higher win percentage, more ROWs (regulation, overtime wins), and have a game in hand on the Penguins.
So, the Penguins are on the outside looking into the playoff seedings. Both Philadelphia and the Penguins trail both the New York Islanders and Washington by two points.
The Penguins have won four of their last five games, and not coincidentally, starting goalie Tristan Jarry has been spectacular. Jarry has a .937 save percentage over his last four games and will make his fifth straight start on Tuesday.
Jarry’s record has improved to 5-5-1 with an .892 save percentage and a 3.30 GAA.
The Capitals will again counter with rookie Vitek Vanecek, who is 7-4-2 with a .907 save percentage and a 2.92 GAA. Craig Anderson will back up Vanecek as Ilya Samsonov is still in Hersey of the AHL.
On Sunday, the Penguins rallied for two third period goals and their seventh comeback win when they beat the New York Islanders 3-2.
“Tristan Jarry won us that game,” Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson said.
However, head coach Mike Sullivan benched Kasperi Kapanen in the third period.
What to Watch
This is my favorite section to write. On Tuesday morning, we broke down the Penguins speed vs. the Washington 1-3-1 left wing lock.
The Penguins’ speed has been disruptive to the Capitals, which is why the Penguins are 3-1-0 against them this season. When the Penguins turn it on against Washington, the Capitals are deer in the headlights. That’s quite a reversal from previous years.
*The Capitals scrambled their lines on Tuesday morning. Lars Eller centered the top line, while Nicklas Backstrom pivoted the third line. Conor Sheary was up to the second line, while Oshie dropped to the third line with Backstrom.
Oshie had some success on the third line against the Penguins early in the season. Is Washington coach Peter Laviolette sending a message to his guys or setting his lines to compete against the Penguins lineup?
*The Penguins penalty kill is still near the bottom of the league. Washington’s power play is always at the top of the league. Uh oh.
“I think Washington has a unique power play. They have arguably one of the best goal scorers of his generation or of all-time with Ovechkin on that backside flank…,” Sullivan said. “…what makes that power play unique is that he’s not the only threat on that group. They have multiple threats…it’s hard to key in on any one aspect.”
The Penguins PK has been significantly improved since Zach Aston-Reese returned to the lineup over a week ago.
*Washington can by physical, especially T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson. The Penguins have handled the Capitals well at home, but how will things go in D.C.?
Sullivan told PHN he didn’t feel the sample size was large enough, yet, to say the Penguins are a better home team or that the Penguins are a different team on the road.
In the words of Lumberg in Office Space, “Yeah, I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you there…” The Penguins are 2-5-1 on the road vs. 7-1-0 at home.
I’ll wait a couple of weeks and ask again if the situation doesn’t change.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines & Special Teams
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jason Zucker||Frederick Gaudreau||Evan Rodrigues|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Daniel Sprong||Evgeny Kuznetsov||Tom Wilson|
|Anthony Mantha||Nicklas Backstrom||T.J. Oshie|
|Conor Sheary||Lars Eller||Michael Raffl|
|Carl Hagelin||Nic Dowd||Garnet Hathaway|
|Dmitry Orlov||John Carlson|
|Brenden Dillon||Justin Schultz|
|Zdeno Chara||Nick Jensen|
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||23.7%, 4th NHL||77.4%, 27th NHL|
|New York Islanders||18.8%, 21st NHL||83.7%, 6th NHL|
Penguins Game Notes:
*The Penguins are 7-1-1 in one-goal games. Washington is 5-0-3.
*The Penguins are 5-2 when scoring first.
*Nicklas Backstrom is two assists shy of 700 career assists.
*Penguins third line center Teddy Blueger extended his point streak to a career-long (tied) three games (1g, 2a) with an assist on Saturday against the Islanders. Blueger has 10 points in 16 games this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins Injuries
Position, Player (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)
F Sam Miletic (15 consecutive, 15 total)
D Juuso Riikola (11 consecutive, 11 total)
F Evan Rodrigues (9 consecutive, 9 total)
D Brian Dumoulin (8 consecutive, 8 total)
F Jared McCann (4 consecutive, 4 total)
2020-21 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 96
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NBCSN
Radio: 105.9 The X