The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of a half dozen teams with a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup. With only divisional play, we’re all left to wonder just how the Penguins would fare against the teams in the Central or North DIvision. But first, the Penguins must survive the MassMutual East Division, which includes the Washington Capitals.
The Penguins have a pair of games against the Washington Capitals in Washington which has only playoff seeding stakes. Both teams will make the playoffs. Then the battle royal begins regardless of seeding.
No, the final two games this season between the two teams are about rivalry and psychological dominance.
What the games will mean for each team is a psychological edge. No, the locker rooms don’t like each other. In January, you’ll recall Capitals goon/top-line winger/agitator/hammer Tom Wilson plowing a defenseless Mark Jankowski well after the puck was gone.
Even if the games are part of the playing out the stretch before the playoffs, expect a war. It’s about asserting who is the better team and who gets the “honor” of winning the one, and hopefully only, East Division title.
Alex Ovechkin may not play for Washington, just as Evgeni Malkin probably (maybe?) won’t play for the Penguins. No matter, it’s the Capitals 1-3-1 vs. the Penguins’ speed.
“(Washington coach Peter Laviolette) does a good job coaching the offense. I think they’ve got a real aggressive game plan. He plays a left-wing lock in the neutral zone,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s always played that out with the teams that he’s coached. And obviously, Washington has adopted that now. But we obviously have a lot of respect for that team.”