The Saturday afternoon ABC hockey schedule continues this week with a clash in the Metropolitan Division, as Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals visit his former pal Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET and simulcast on ESPN+.
To help you prepare for the game, we’ve put together a guide to all the key players to watch for each team, including in-depth stats from ESPN Stats & Information, and more.
This season, ESPN+ will air 75 regular season exclusive games, with ABC and ESPN airing a total of 28 regular season exclusive games for a total of 103 games. The full broadcast schedule is available here.
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3 p.m. ET | Watch live on ESPN+
Line: Pittsburgh-140 | More less : 6
ESPN Power Rankings: 15
Best striker : Alex Ovechkin, 81 points in 68 games
2021-22 review: 38-22-10 (86 points), fourth in the Metro division
The Capitals are 14-6-1 against the Metropolitan Division this season, the best of any team in that division. It would be the team’s third-best record against the Metro since the division’s inception in 2013-14.
The Capitals come into Saturday’s game with a roster that has an average age of 30.0, tied with the Islanders for oldest in the league. The Penguins are tied for fifth with the Wild at 29.3.
Washington struggled in the faceoff circle, ranking 28th overall (47.4%), last on the power play (46.1%) and 30th in the offensive zone (45.3%). Among 87 qualified players, Lars Eller ranks 56th (49.8%) and Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks 84th (43.7%) in head-to-head pct victory.
Alex Ovechkin has 773 goals, leaving him 28 shy of tying Gordie Howe for second all-time (801). With 12 games left, if Ovechkin maintains his season tempo, he’ll finish with exactly 50 goals for the ninth time in his career, which would tie Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most in NHL history.
Ovechkin hit 300 shots for the 15th time in his 17-year career (301), three more than any other player in NHL history. Only Auston Matthews (314) and David Pastrnak (304) have taken more than Ovechkin this season.
John Carlson is one point away from his fourth career 60-point season. Over the past five seasons, Carlson has had the most assists (250) and points (316) by a defenseman.
Nicklas Backstrom’s points-per-game rate of 0.73 would be the lowest of his career. He still has 276 career assists on goals from Alex Ovechkin.
ESPN Power Rankings: 12
Best striker : Sidney Crosby, 72 points in 59 games
2021-22 review: 41-21-10 (92 points), third in the Metro division
The Penguins played without Sidney Crosby in Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the Rangers. They are 5-4-4 when Crosby is out of the lineup this season and 36-17-6 when he plays. One of the biggest differences without Crosby in the roster is the power play, which converts 9.5% in the 13 games without him (they’re at 21.5% overall). For context, the Flyers have the NHL’s worst power play rate at 12.6% this season.
Pittsburgh’s three-game losing streak is tied for the team’s longest in regulation this season. A loss of regulation in this game would give the Penguins their second-longest losing streak in the last five seasons (6 in a row from Feb. 20-29, 2020). Since March 15, the Penguins are 5-6-1 overall and 2-6-0 against teams currently in playoff position, with both wins being beyond regulation (3-2 win in a shootout at St. Louis on March 17 and a 4-3 OT win at Minnesota on March 31).
The Penguins are second in shorthanded percentage this season, at 86.0 percent. They finished in the top 2 in penalty kill percentage once in team history: 2010-11, when they led the league at 86.1%. Their current conversion rate would rank fourth in a single season in team history (statistic first tracked in 1977-78).
Goaltender Tristan Jarry has lost four straight starts and is 1-5-0 in his last six appearances with an .891 save percentage. Those five losses have come against the Rangers (3) and the Avalanche (2).
Bryan Rust has a career-high 57 points this season, including 48 in the 2022 calendar year. The only Penguins player with more in this span is Crosby, with 54. The trio of Crosby, Rust and Jake Guentzel have accounted for 35% of the Penguins’ goals this season. But since January 1, it’s up to 42%.