The Pittsburgh Penguins (0-2-0) game on Sunday is out of the fryer but into the frying pan. In what is technically the Penguins home opener, the team badly needs to reverse course quickly but have a tough two-game set against the Washington Capitals (2-0-0), which begins on Sunday at noon at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins lost both of their two-game set in Philadelphia last week. In the process, the Penguins were outscored 11-5 and have the second-worst goal differential in the NHL, ahead of only the Chicago Blackhawks. It was a tough week for the Penguins as the core’s negative stats piled up.
Kris Letang is a minus-5, Jake Guentzel has only two shots and no points, and Evgeni Malkin received poor grades in our report card segments for being shutout in the first two games, too.
Catch up on what went right and what went wrong with the Penguins One-Timers, Analysis and Report Card (PHN+)
The Penguins are currently last in the East Division. Only the Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres failed to earn a point in the opening week.
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
*Per head coach Mike Sullivan, Kasperi Kapanen has cleared the NHL protocols for quarantine after arriving from Finland. He skated Sunday morning but will not play Sunday.
*Penguins trade talk has begun. Hockey Night in Canada reporter Elliotte Friedman officially tied the Pittsburgh Penguins to Winnipeg Jets RFA holdout, Jack Roslovic (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)
*Sidney Crosby has played only 52 regular-season games against the Washington Capitals, according to HockeyReference.com. Crosby has 74 career points (26g, 48a). Evgeni Malkin has 67 career points against Washington (21g, 46a) in 47 games.
Alex Ovechkin has 59 points, including 35 goals, in 59 games vs. the Penguins.
The NHL fined* Penguins winger Jared McCann the maximum allowable amount ($10,000) on Sunday for elbowing Philadelphia defenseman Travis Sanheim on Friday night.
*Sidney Crosby and Brandon Tanev have scored goals in the Penguins’ first two games.
*The Penguins have won six of their last eight games against the Washington Capitals at PPG Paints Arena dating back to 2016.
*Penguins Center Mark Jankowski has three points (2g, 1a) in two games. He had only seven points (5g, 2a) in 56 games for the Calgary Flames last season.
“We’ve got to wear their defense out. We’ve got to get in on the forecheck,” Jake Guentzel said. “That’s when we’re at our best, when we’re using our speed and creating those turnovers.”
The Penguins will need to do that, and limit the mistakes. And penalties.
UPDATE: The Penguins will be going with Casey DeSmith in net against the Capitals after Jarry was shelled in his first two starts, allowing nine goals on 31 shots. Such things happen when your team leaves players uncovered in the scoring zones.
2nd UPDATE: Juuso Riikola will draw into the lineup ahead of LHD Mike Matheson.
The Penguins will likely face Ilya Samsonov, anointed Washington’s number one goalie in the offseason. The team allowed former Stanley Cup-winning goalie Braden Holtby to leave via free agency.
Seeing a new goalie does have challenges.
“That’s something (Mike) Buckley sends us a pre scout on. It’s always good to have those tidbits and help you think less on the ice; what you’re looking for,” Brian Dumoulin said. “We’ll be seeing him a lot this year, so hopefully, we’ll take some mental notes…”
The Penguins defensive game has been disjointed, to be kind, in the first two games. While the Penguins were able to control the puck and play against Philadelphia, especially in the second game, snowballing mistakes put the Penguins in a deficit, which they didn’t escape.
There isn’t a better team in the NHL at creating momentum for long periods of time than the Washington Capitals. It usually starts with a Tom Wilson or Alex Ovechkin hit, or a big scoring chance, and the Capitals begin attacking in waves.
It will be interesting if the Penguins have any wrinkles, given former Washington head coach Todd Reirden is now the Penguins assistant.
Washington also has a quartet of former Penguins. Carl Hagelin has been skating on the fourth line, and Conor Sheary has been skating on the third line, however, former Penguins draft pick and prospect Daniel Sprong will take that spot on Sunday. Defenseman Justin Schultz is Washington’s second pair RHD. Former Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik retired.
Washington also signed defenseman Zdeno Chara as a free agent.
Penguins Betting Odds
Our friends at BetMGM are offering a $500 match.
PHN is 1-1 on picks this season, and we’re an empty-net goal away from being 2-0. The Penguins bettings odds have them as a 1.5 goal favorite on Sunday. However, PHN isn’t ready to bet on the Penguins and certainly not a two-goal win.
Never bet against a streak, and certainly not until the Penguins begin to play a 60-minute game.
We also like the payout. Take the Capitals and the 1.5 goals (+200).
If you use our friends at BetMGM, send National Hockey Now an email with a screenshot of your deposit, and we’ll give you a free subscription to PHN+.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Freddy Gaudreau|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
Casey DeSmith (0-0) will make his first start of the season.
|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|
Ilya Samsonov (1-0-0, 4.00 GAA, .846 Sv%) is expected to start for Washington in goal.
How to Watch
Radio: 105.9 The X