Pittsburgh Penguins: Keys to Victory over Washington

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 08: Sidney Crosby
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 08: Sidney Crosby /

The Pittsburgh Penguins enter Wednesday night’s early season show down with the Washington Capitals at 1-1-1.

Doesn’t it seem worse?

After a tough 5-4 loss in overtime over the St. Louis Blues to open the season the Penguins responded with a 10-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks the very next night.

Two days later, though, the Penguins were back in the win column with a thoroughly convincing 4-0 win over the defending Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators.

During the game with the Predators, new acquisition Ryan Reaves established himself as a new Pittsburgh folk hero with a goal and not one, but two fights, 24 penalty minutes and seven hits.

Wednesday’s opponents, the Washington Capitals come in rolling so far in the early season at 2-0-1. Here are some keys to victory.

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Slow Down Ovi

OTTAWA, ON – OCTOBER 5: Alex Ovechkin
OTTAWA, ON – OCTOBER 5: Alex Ovechkin /

Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin has been on fire to start the 2017-18 season. He scored three goals in their season opening 5-4 shootout victory over the Ottawa Senators. He one-upped that with a four goal performance in their 6-1 victory over Montreal.

Shutting down Ovechkin is always key against the Capitals, but given the stars production so far, it’s even more important.

Pepper Holtby

The Washington Capitals Braden Holtby has been a Vezina caliber goaltender the last few years. That being said, the Penguins have had his number, especially in the playoffs.

If there was a weakness in the Capitals game it’s being out-shot. So far in their three games this year they’ve been out-shot 111-77. If the Penguins can throw the rubber at Holtby, expect a few of them to get by.

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 06: Phil Kessel
WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 06: Phil Kessel /

Continued Penalty Kill Success

For all the hardships the Penguins have had to endure this year, a major bright spot has been the penalty kill. Pittsburgh has killed 93.3% of power plays this season which is sixth best in the NHL.

The Penguins having a good penalty kill is to be expected over recent years. It’s been a bright spot thus far.

More of Saturday

The Pittsburgh Penguins that played last Thursday looked more like the boys that played in the early 2000’s ahead of Crosby’s arrival. The team that played Saturday? THAT is what a two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion team looks like.

The Penguins need more performances like Saturday’s if they want to win their third straight Stanley Cup.

Kris Letang

After an inspiring recovery from neck surgery had him ready to start the 2017-18 season, Kris Letang looks the part.

That being said, in a result driven society, he needs to produce better results. He’s averaged over 25 minutes of ice time a night, which can’t continue, but he’s got a -5 in plus/minus.

Letang was given the ‘A’ after Chris Kunitz left town, and has earned it, but he’s an important part to the team and his play needs to reflect that.