Capitals Renew Deep-Rooted Rivalry With Penguins Amid Defensive Worries

capitals penguins

Game: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals

Venue: Capital One Arena, Washington DC

Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Time: 7.30 PM EDT

TV: NBCSN

The Washington Capitals take on their perennial nemesis the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night at the Capital One Arena in the nation’s capital. The Pens have eliminated the Capitals from the Stanley Cup playoffs the past two seasons and – along with the New York Rangers – have played the role of a major postseason thorn in Washington’s side. The match-up is never a dull showing, even this early on in an NHL season.

Capitals Missing Some Defensive Synergy

The Capitals are looking to rebound after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, a game in which Washington had two separate two-goal leads. The Caps’ offense showed up for the Lightning game, but some of the defensemen looked out of sorts. In the first three games of this 2017-18 NHL season, the Capitals look like they’re missing the services of the three, mainstay D-men they lost during the offseason – namely Kevin Shattenkirk (Rangers, via free agency); Karl Alzner (Canadians, via free agency); and Nate Schmidt (Golden Knights, via the expansion draft).

In their third-pairing role this term, Aaron Ness and Taylor Chorney have looked a little shaky, and the synergy is not quite there yet. The Lightning’s tying goal late in the third period (to make the score 3-3) saw Nikita Kucherov sail past Chorney as if the latter was standing still. Chorney looked slightly out of position on the play. Before that, Ness gave the puck away in the build-up to Tampa Bay’s second goal. ¬†It would not be a surprise to see Christian Djoos included for the Penguins game, with either Ness or Chorney left out. Djoos is an offensive-minded defenseman cut from the Mike Green mold; the Swede notched 58 points last season for the Hershey Bears (13 goals, 45 assists) and is eager for a chance.

Ovechkin Versus Crosby

Team rivalries aside, there is no love lost between each team’s captain – Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. The two have met in more than 50 games including their junior and world championship appearances, most recently in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Conference Semifinals in April. Ovechkin has recorded 51 points against the Penguins (30 goals, 21 assists) in 48 NHL games. Crosby has chalked up 60 points against the Caps (20 goals, 40 assists) in just 41 NHL games. Ovechkin is looking to add to his NHL-leading seven-goal tally.

Those Concussions…

Adding to the Caps-Pens rivalry is the Capitals’ ability to somehow give Crosby a concussion during big games. The first time it happened, during the 2011 Winter Classic, Crosby was blindsided by then-Capital David Steckel in an indecent that still makes Penguins fans moan.

And, just last season, Crosby was on the receiving end of an Ovechkin stick whacking, before getting a check to the head from Matt Niskanen in Game 3 of the teams’ playoff series. Neither Ovechkin, nor Niskanen, was suspended.

Expect a magnificent atmosphere in the Capital One Arena Wednesday night as the NHL renews one of its greatest rivalries in front of what will surely be a sell-out and rambunctious crowd.

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