If betting on hockey were like in cartoons, the Pittsburgh Penguins would obviously be favorites in the NHL playoffs second round series pitting the Pittsburgh team against the Washington Capitals. Of course, if that were the case, they would be actual penguins. But since they are not, the Caps are online betting favorites (odds -135) to win game one, which they host tonight. Though to be fair, Pittsburgh did own the Blueshirts in their first round series – making fast decisions, fast passes, and keeping their (happy) feet moving all the time, as real penguins are wont to do.
On the other hand, Washington needed 6 games to take care of a tenacious Flyers – whose entire strategy boiled down to laying back and hope that the Caps would make a mistake. And speaking of mistakes, make no such; Pittsburgh is a completely different beast than Philadelphia. These Penguins march with rocket launchers on their backs like in Batman Returns. Under the leadership of Oswald Cobblepot, err, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins averaged a league-high 4.2 goals, ran four capable lines, and got strong two-way contributions from their bottom six. The third line was good for four goals and 12 points, and the fourth line scored another four goals and nine points.
Washington’s roster is not that deep, especially missing locker room leader Brooks Orpik. This absence puts pressure on Matt Niskanen and Carlson, and even more so on Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt. Moreover, the Caps managed only two goals in the last three games against the Flyers, which was hardly good enough versus Philadelphia and definitely will not cut the mustard against Pittsburgh. The pressure’s on, who If Washington is going to go tête-à-tête with the Caps’ offense, Evgeny Kuznetsov needs to be a key player – very different from the first round, where he scored only once in the first and failed to register an assist after he finished with 44 even-strength helpers and 57th overall during the regular season. Nicklas Backstrom also has to make his presence felt. He turned Philly’s Claude Giroux into a non-entity with his two-way play and may be asked to do likewise with Crosby.
As a sportsbook to bet on NHL, we would be remiss if we did not mention Alex Ovechkin. This is the perfect opportunity for Ovechkin to step out of the shadow of Crosby, who has always bested him. Ovechkin’s scoring abilities as well as physical game are both keys to the Caps’ success. Speaking of scoring, it won’t be easy; on the one hand, 21-year-old Matt Murray has proven to be a worthy substitute for the concussed Marc-André Fleury for the Pens. On the other, Braden Holtby is the kind of goalie who can save the Caps when they most need it.