NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Penguins vs Capitals

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Penguins vs Capitals article feature image

Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Goaltender Darcy Kuemper of the Washington Capitals.

  • The Washington Capitals (25-19-6) return home to play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins (24-15-8) on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET.
  • Washington is a short home favorite with a -125 moneyline price.
  • NHL betting analyst Nick Martin previews Penguins vs Capitals, including updated odds, picks and predictions for Thursday's game.

Penguins vs. Capitals Odds

Penguins Odds+105
Capitals Odds-125
Over/Under6.5 (+100 / -120)
Time7 p.m. ET
TV SN360
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals go head-to-head on Thursday in a  critical meeting between NHL rivals.

Pittsburgh and Washington are tied at 56 points, both teams clinging to the final wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference. Of note, the Penguins have played three fewer contests.

Oddsmakers price Washington as slight home favorites at -115 to -120, despite the fact that Pittsburgh has actually won more of its recent outings.

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Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins' thrilling 7-6 overtime win over the Panthers on Tuesday was one of the more exciting contests of the season.

Kris Letang's massive night made it all the more special. Pittsburgh's top defender returned from personal leave due to the passing of his father. He capped off a four-point night with the overtime winner.

Letang's return is a massive boost to the Penguins' locker room — and the team's actual on-ice play. The latter is particularly important in light of Pittsburgh's poor defensive form during Letang's leave of absence.

In the month of January, Pittsburgh has played to an xGF% of 49.83. Of greater concern is the team's 3.57 expected goals against per 60, which ranks sixth-worst in the NHL.

A breakeven share of scoring chances may be perfectly fine for a roster littered with elite scoring talent like the Penguins have in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel.

Allowing such a high number of quality scoring chances may be difficult to overcome — especially given the Penguins' goaltending situation. Tristan Jarry is back on the Injured Reserve, thereby forcing Pittsburgh to continue its reliance on Casey DeSmith.

DeSmith has stopped 87.2% of shots faced in his last five appearances. He reports a -1.3 GSAx rating despite a strong start to the campaign.

Washington Capitals

Washington played arguably its worst game of the season in Vegas. The Golden Knights thoroughly dismantled the Capitals in a 6-2 regulation rout.

The Caps bounced back with a strong performance in Colorado against an Avalanche team that has been dominant during its six-game winning streak.

Washington led in expected goals by a margin of 3.25 to 2.01. Furthermore, the eye test corroborates that metrical evaluation of the game.

Tough-luck losses have been a consistent theme for the Capitals lately, who has lost five of the last seven contests despite an elite expected goals share of 55.0%.

Notwithstanding Washington's notably bad performances versus the Flyers and Knights, there is little evidence to suggest a meaningful drop-off in form.

Rather, the greater concern has been the Capitals' shooting slump: Washington has finished off just 8% of its shots during the last seven games. That is especially low for a Capitals core that has scored at above-expected rates year-in and year-out.

Darcy Kuemper has been confirmed as the Capitals starter on Thursday night. Kuemper has a +5.5 GSAx rating and .916 save percentage in 32 games this season.

Penguins vs. Capitals Pick

Pittsburgh's elite offensive stars are in better form (or simply just better players) than those of the Capitals. Notable performances from Crosby, Malkin and the powerplay unit will be crucial for Pittsburgh to cover up its other flaws in this matchup.

Washington has consistently controlled far more of the overall play recently. Moreover, the Capitals team game has also been sharper than the Penguins, who have allowed a wealth of high-end scoring opportunities.

Even if Pittsburgh improves at limiting opposition chances at even strength — more so with Letang and Petry back in the mix — overcoming the quality of goaltending it has received from DeSmith could prove difficult.

The Capitals hold an edge in enough areas that a price of -115 is quite strong. Washington holds betting value to win this game down to a price of -125.

Pick: Capitals ML -115 ⋅ Play to -125

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