Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19), of Sweden, warms up before an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
- The Pittsburgh Penguins are +100 road underdogs as they face the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021
- Pittsburgh has won seven of the previous 11 matchups versus Washington, including three of four games this season
- Pittsburgh is off to a 9-6-1 start but has won only two of their eight games away from home (2-5-1 record)
The Washington Capitals found a way to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in their last meeting by a score of 3-1. Previously, they had severe problems slowing down Pittsburgh’s offense. In those three games, the Penguins hit the back of the net a whopping 15 times.
Overall, Pittsburgh won seven of those previous 11 games against Washington dating back to the start of the 2018-19 season. These teams trade goals frequently as well. Pittsburgh has yielded three or more goals in seven straight meetings against their rivals.
Washington’s home record (6-3-1) is a big reason why they are currently a slight favorite at -115 in the Penguins vs Capitals odds. Nicklas Backstrom has been solid for the Capitals, tallying five points in his last five games.
The puck drops Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021 is at 7 PM EST. The game is being televised by NBCSN, Sportsnet, and NBCS-DC. Pittsburgh and Washington last played on February 16th, with the Washington Capitals winning 3-1.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals Odds
|Pittsburgh Penguins||+100||+1.5 (-275)||O 6.5 (-108)|
|Washington Capitals||-115||-1.5 (+220)||U 6.5 (-113)|
Odds took Feb. 22nd at DraftKings
The Backstrom Bounceback
The Capitals will always be among the top-tier in goal scoring but a big part in Washington’s surge this season has been the play of Nicklas Backstrom. Washington’s center has surprised many with 22 points in 17 games. The 33-year-old has also scored eight goals on 34 shots.
Nicklas Backstrom leads the Capitals with 22 points (8g, 14a) and ranks tied for seventh in the NHL. Backstrom’s 22 points are the most he has scored through the first 17 games of a season in his career.
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) February 21, 2021
Backstrom tallied points in his previous two games against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a goal and assist. Even against New Jersey on Saturday, the center dished out two helpers on the man advantage en route to a Washington 4-3 win. Backstrom has good value in the Art Ross Trophy odds at +2000.
An Up and Down Malkin
While Backstrom is enjoying his best career start, Malkin has not been performing quite at the same level.
The Pittsburgh center has one multi-point performance this season (16 games). In that span, Malkin has managed to post points (three assists) in consecutive games and has ten shots in his previous three contests.
A very rocky start to the season where he isn’t producing or driving play to his usual standards – is this the beginning of the end for Evgeni Malkin?https://t.co/sQHvHytD4s pic.twitter.com/tVkcEM1aVT
— dom at the athletic (@domluszczyszyn) February 22, 2021
Pittsburgh hopes that again this is a sign that Malkin is feeling better, but his overall performance suggests trouble. Malkin is not attacking the front of the net the same way he did last season. At least he is fine after a head-first fall near the boards on Saturday.
Pittsburgh forwards Jared McCann and Evan Rodrigues will not play again on Tuesday night. Both remain on the injured reserve due to lower-body injuries.
Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin, out since January 26th with a lower-body ailment, is still on the injured reserve. At least, all three did skate with the taxi squad on Monday — just not in a team setting.
Per Mike Sullivan, Brian Dumoulin, Jared McCann and Evan Rodrigues skated before practice (and the taxi squad) today.
McCann will travel with the team on its upcoming road trip.
— Seth Rorabaugh (@SethRorabaugh) February 22, 2021
McCann will accompany the Penguins on this four-game road trip, but they are unsure when he will return. Dumoulin and Rodrigues are a long way away from returning to game action.
Washington Home Cooking
The Capitals, despite their COVID issues, have played well at home in the early going. Washington enjoys a 6-3-1 record at the Capital One Arena. They average well over three goals a game there and enjoy one of the league’s best power plays at 33.3%. Washington just plays at a different pace at home and always scores goals versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.
— TerritorioHockey (@TerrHockey) February 22, 2021
Overall, Washington scores at a rate of 3.35 goals per game while yielding 3.41 goals per contest. Pittsburgh’s biggest weakness has also been their defense — allowing 3.31 goals per game with a 74% penalty kill (26th).
Washington, as mentioned above is converting one out of every three power plays (tied-2nd), compared to just 14.9% for the Penguins (25th). Finally, the Capitals won their last meeting on February 16th by holding the Penguins to just one goal on just 27 shots.
Pick: Washington Capitals (-115)
A journalist veteran for over two decades, Chris has taught the gamut of fantasy hockey sports online from injuries to news to prospects, and more. He has bet on several sports and written sports betting articles about the NBA, MLB, NCAA football, the NFL, and NHL for USA Today.