Pittsburgh (0-0) at Washington (0-0)
When: Thursday, April 28th 2016
Where: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Time: 8:05 ET | TV: NBC Sports
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin will meet again in the Playoffs for the first time since their epic 2009 encounter when the Penguins and Capitals square off in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series Thursday night. The Penguins won that series in seven games and went on to win the Stanley Cup that year and Crosby had eight goals and five assists in that series. The Penguins come into this series red hot after defeating the New York Rangers in five games. Pittsburgh has won 17 of their last 20 games including the Playoffs. Crosby had three goals and five assists in the five-game series against New York and beat the Capitals with an overtime winner on April 7th. Rookie Matt Murray made 27 saves in that win with starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury dealing with post-concussion symptoms, and the 21-year-old returned from his own upper-body ailment to turn aside 85-of-89 shots as the Penguins won the final three games of their series with the Rangers. The Penguins killed off 17-of-19 power-plays in the series with New York.
Ovechkin tries to not look back at that series in 2009 and only look ahead as his Washington Capitals had the NHL’s best record this season. Ovechkin had an amazing eight goals and six assists in that 2009 series, but failed to score a goal in five meetings with the Penguins this season. Braden Holtby tied an NHL single-season record with 48 wins in the regular season and didn’t miss a beat in the first round, yielding just five goals on 154 shots for an impressive 0.84 goals-against average and .968 save percentage. The Capitals put away the Philadelphia Flyers in six games to get to this series although, they did have a 3-0 lead before the Flyers won the next two. Washington’s power-play hit for a healthy 29.6% against Philadelphia although most of those goals came in the first three contests. The Capitals killed off all but one of their 24 shorthanded opportunities against the Flyers.
I have to take the hotter team right now in Game 1 and that is Pittsburgh. Ovechkin struggled against them all season and the Capitals are coming off a hard-fought series with Philadelphia.
Pick: Penguins +115