Sunday NHL Odds, Pick, Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals Betting Preview

Sunday NHL Odds, Pick, Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals Betting Preview article feature image

Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Sidney Crosby.

  • Pittsburgh heads to the nation's capital to face Washington on Sunday in a meeting featuring one the NHL's better rivalries.
  • Sidney Crosby returns for the Penguins to face Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals.
  • Nicholas Martin breaks down the game below and gives his top pick.

Penguins vs. Capitals Odds

Penguins Odds+145
Capitals Odds-170
Time7 p.m. ET
Odds via Parx. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds and Futures Odds here.

Sidney Crosby is likely to make a well-timed return to take on old rival Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, a matchup that continues to be can't-miss television with the generational talents now in their 17th NHL seasons.

Strong Defensive Play Powers Capitals

Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov have rightfully claimed a ton of credit for their performances this season, but behind them lies a very underrated defensive unit that has been very strong and a huge reason for the Capitals' impressive 8-2-4 mark this season.

The unit is very effective at driving the play up the ice and activating in the offensive zone to help generate chances. It has been a big part of the Capitals' continued offensive success while playing short Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha.

Nicklas Jensen continues to be one of the more underrated two-way defenders in the game and has been in spectacular form so far this season, forming an excellent pair with Dmitri Orlov. The duo has controlled play effectively, with a 55.8 xGF% over 197.5 minutes together.

Youngster Martin Fehervary has been very effective in stabilizing offensive stalwart John Carlson on the second pair, as Carlson is simply harder to play with than his reputation entails at 5-on-5 in recent years.

One of the biggest issues for the Capitals has surprisingly been the powerplay, which has looked listless at times, posting just a 17.0% success rate. Given the current offensive losses, the area could become notable as depth scoring behind Ovechkin and Kuznetsov may be likely to regress.

The Capitals sent Zach Fucale back down to Hershey (AHL) Friday after debuting with a shutout in an excellent story, which is a clear indication that Vitek Vanecek is healthy and ready to go.

Therefore I would say it's a little more likely Vanecek takes the cage for this big showdown than Samsonov, although I do not feel there is a notable difference between the two netminders.

Vanecek has posted mediocre results so far this season, stopping 90.6% of shots faced and -0.4 goals saved above expected (GSAx).

For more odds on the Capitals, please refer to this page.

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Crosby Could Return for Penguins

Similar to Washington, the Penguins' back end has helped to provide stability for a club that has played short a ton of key pieces throughout the season, and altogether a 5-3-4 record is relatively impressive considering the losses.

The Pens will possibly see captain Sidney Crosby return for the contest, as well as Brian Dumoulin and Marcus Pettersson, who are now finally skating at close to full health. Pittsburgh will still be without superstar Evgeni Malkin.

Mike Sullivan has the Pens playing a very fast and detailed team game, holding the opposition to just 2.18 xGA/60 and a 54.67 xGF%. Pittsburgh has certainly made the opposition work to create chances in the early going this season, and it will look to continue that trend and make life tough for Ovechkin and company skating in leg two of a back-to-back situation.

Having rested Saturday in favor of backup Casey DeSmith, Tristan Jarry will get the start for the Penguins for the contest.

Jarry has been in great form in the early going this season in posting a 92.9 save percentage and 3.8 goals saved above expected (GSAx) over his first 10 starts.

For more odds on the Penguins, please refer to this page.

Capitals vs. Penguins Pick

Sunday will mark the first meeting of the year between these two bitter rivals, and I expect both teams to come in and play very sharp defensive games, unlikely to offer much for cheap breakdowns, sloppy odd-man rushes or undisciplined play.

The Capitals have quietly been quite strong defensively in the early going this season, and I think while short some key pieces up front, the plan from Coach Laviolette will certainly be to keep it simple and make it tough for the Pens to generate much offensively here.

While I have liked the Capitals game in the early going, I am not sure there is value in backing them as a heavy favorite (-175) against a Pens team that has been much sharper than its record indicates, particularly considering that it now has Crosby and others back in the fold.

With a higher total of 6, I see value in backing this one to stay under in a game which figures to be well played and hard fought between two bitter rivals.

Pick: Under 6 -110 (Play to -125)

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