Washington to capitalize on Pens inconsistency

Washington Capitals have shown of late that they are a side that is capable of repeating their Stanley Cup success of last season, not that anyone doubted that perhaps, and they have been cut into 15.00 to lift the trophy once again, with only four sides shorter than them in the outright betting.

Outstanding Ovechkin the difference-maker

Of course, it doesn’t do the Capitals any harm to have someone of the calibre of Alexander Ovechkin, arguably the best player of his generation, in their ranks with the “great eight” recently notching back-to-back hat-tricks to help him climb to the top of the NHL’s goal-scoring charts.

Ovechkin now has 29 goals to his name this season, five clear of nearest rival Jeff Skinner, and it is no surprise that Washington are capitalising on his good run of form. Washington have won five games on the spin to open up a four-point lead in the Metropolitan Division, with a game in hand over Columbus Blue Jackets in second.

Like bad teams finding ways to lose, good teams seem to come up with something when perhaps not at their best, with the Caps needing shootouts to pick up the two points in each of their last two games.

Caps consistency the key

Next in line for the Caps is a tantalising match-up with Metropolitan rivals Pittsburgh Penguins, who of course completed back-to-back Stanley Cup successes in 2017, which pits Ovechkin against Sidney Crosby.

The Pens have the talent to beat anyone on their day and, although they remain in contention to usurp Washington in the division – seven points off the leaders in fourth – consistency has been an issue this term, also demonstrated by their recent form.

Pittsburgh have won five and lost four of their last 10 games, with another defeat in overtime, and they go into this fixture on the back of a 4-2 reverse to Anaheim, and it is tough to back them with confidence.

Home advantage should help the in-form Capitals to pick up the two points, particularly with a red-hot Ovechkin in the line-up, with the two sides having met twice already this season and the home side winning on each occasion.

Avs need to up their game

Colorado Avalanche have won plenty of admirers this term and can boast one of the best top lines in the NHL, with Mikko Rantanen still leading the NHL points scoring charts with 56. That is three clear of team-mate Nathan MacKinnon, while Edmonton’s Connor McDavid is a further four points back in third.

However, the Avs’ recent form has been mixed to say the least, with four wins and four defeats in regulation in their last 10 games, and they have eased a touch to 19.00 in the outright betting to lift the Stanley Cup.

The depth of their squad is perhaps the biggest issue regarding their chances of overall success but on their day they are a match for anyone, with only Tampa Bay Lightning having scored more goals so far this season.

Colorado have played more games on the road this season and will be looking forward to a two-game home stand as they look to close the four-point deficit to Winnipeg and Nashville in the Western Division.

Montreal Canadiens are the next visitors to the Pepsi Center and, like the Avs, their recent form has been erratic with six wins and four defeats in their last 10.

Lack of star power hurting Montreal

The Habs are not too far behind the Avalanche in terms of points this season, 39 to 42 in arguably a tougher division, but they appear to lack the star quality of Colorado’s leading line.

Montreal go into this match up on the back of a 4-0 shutout defeat to Boston Bruins at home and it is tough to see them bouncing back in Colorado, unless Carey Price can have one of those games in goal.

Jets form to be tested

There aren’t many teams that are playing better than Winnpeg Jets right now, with Paul Maurice’s men having enjoyed a five-game winning streak that has seen them rise to the top of the Western Division, on the same number of points as Nashville Predators having played a game less.

Their purple patch has been going on for some time, having lost just one of their last 10 games, although it is worth noting that they have needed overtime to win their last three matches (ahead of a trip to LA) – but the last of those was a statement win over Tampa Bay.

In Mark Scheifele they have the form player of the NHL, with the center having scored 14 points in his last five games, but their Stanley Cup credentials – currently fourth favourites at 12.00 – will be put to the test at the SAP Center against San Jose, priced at 21.00.

The Sharks are enjoying a good run of form themselves, winning their last four games, and have closed to within five points of Pacific leaders Calgary.

The Sharks’ problems have largely been on the road but being back on home territory, they can end the Jets streak to keep the pressure on the Flames and remind others of their outright hopes.