The Washington Capitals will look to exorcise some demons Thursday when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins as small home favorites at the sportsbooks for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference second-round playoff series.
The Capitals have lost to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins in the second round in each of the past two years despite boasting a better regular-season record.
NHL betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 3.6–2.2, Penguins. NHL picks on every game.
Why the Penguins Can Pay on the NHL Lines
Pittsburgh is in Washington’s head, there is no doubt about that.
The Penguins won the first two games on the road in the most recent postseason matchup by a combined score of 9-4, with former goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury also coming up big in a 2-0 win at the then-Verizon Center in Game 7.Tom Mihalek/Associated Press
They have no fear of playing the Capitals away from home. Pittsburgh split the first two games at Washington the previous year as well and has gone 7-5 in the past 12 meetings overall, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.
Why the Capitals Can Pay on the NHL Lines
The Capitals enjoyed some success against the Penguins during the regular season, winning two of the teams’ past three meetings after dropping the first two. In those victories, they allowed only one goal, so that will be the key in this series.
Two-time All-Star goalie Braden Holtby is the man in net again after he took over for an ineffective Philipp Grubauer after losing the first two games versus the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round.
Holtby struggled at times in last year’s playoff series, but he has an excellent opportunity to redeem himself with a good showing this time around.
Smart Betting Pick
Both teams faced challenges in the first round before advancing to a third consecutive head-to-head matchup in the second.
Washington had much more to prove, though, after going down 2-0 to Columbus at home and reeling off four straight wins.
Evgeni Malkin’s health (lower-body injury) is a concern for Pittsburgh, as he has officially been ruled out for the series opener.
While Malkin may play in Game 2, the Capitals are rightfully favored and the pick to win in this spot with him out of the lineup.
NHL Betting Trends
Pittsburgh is 6-2 in its past eight games.
The total has gone over in 12 of Pittsburgh’s past 15 games on the road.
The total has gone over in seven of Washington’s past nine games.
All NHL odds and betting trends according to Bleacher Report’s official odds partner, OddsShark. Check out OddsShark on Twitter and Instagram or head to YouTube for more betting picks and analysis on this week’s top games. You can also download the free odds tracker app.