The Washington Capitals and New York Islanders will face off in a three-game mini-series on April 22, April 24 and April 27. The Capitals and Islanders currently sit at the top of the Eastern Division with 62 points each. They have played each other five times already this season with Washington winning three games and New York winning two games.
These three games are essential in these two teams’ struggle for first place in the East. With just ten games left for the Capitals and Islanders picking up points is a must to gain favorable seeding in the playoffs. This should be an exciting series and may be a preview of the playoffs. Here are some of the key points to look forward to in these next three games.
Not a Game of Catch-up
The first goal of each game will be very important. Neither the Islanders nor the Capitals like to play catch-up and neither is particularly good at it.
The Capitals like to score first and they like to score often. In their 46 games this season, Washington is 19-5-2 when scoring the first goal. They average 3.54 goals per game and lead the league in goals for, with 163. Washington likes to grab hold of the lead and continue to score in order to maintain the lead.
The Islanders do not score as much as the Capitals, averaging 2.89 goals per game and coming in at 15th in goals for, with 133. Similarly to Washington though, they excel when scoring the first goal. In their 46 games, this season New York is 20-1-2 when scoring first. Much like the Capitals, their record when not scoring first skews towards the loss category. The Islanders excel at grabbing an early lead and holding onto it through strong defensive play.
Both teams will need to come to the rink ready to play and have a strong start to each game in order to avoid giving up early goals. The team that shows up ready to play and takes control in the first period has a good chance of winning, especially if they can score a goal.
The Washington Capitals have a powerplay that cannot be ignored. This season their powerplay has been 27.56% effective. Out of their 163 goals this season, 35 have been powerplay goals. In the past five games, the Capitals have scored ten powerplay goals on 23 powerplay opportunities. Of their 25 total goals in the past five games, ten have been powerplay goals. Staying out of the penalty box will be essential for the Islanders if they are to come out on top in the next three games.
The Islanders’ powerplay is less threatening, coming in at around 17% effective, but is still not dismissable. The Capitals have been known to take their fair share of penalties and it is likely that the Islanders would be able to take advantage of a powerplay if they were to receive one.
When looking at penalty killing the two teams are more equal. Washington kills off 83.45% of penalties while New York kills off 82.14% of penalties.
Defensive Strengths, Defensive Weaknesses
Washington’s defensemen are among the highest-scoring defensemen in the NHL. John Carlson alone has scored 42 points this season, cracking the 40 point mark for the fourth season in a row. With all of their impressive offensive ability, the defensemen do have some struggles with defending their own net.
Washington has allowed 141 goals in 46 games. This gives them a goals-against-average of 3.065 per game, below the NHL average of 2.84 goals-against average. Allowing a lot of goals every game makes Washington’s impressive goal-scoring a necessity, not an added bonus.
While one could blame inexperienced goaltenders, blame must also be placed on the defensemen. There are far too many risky turnovers, untimely line changes, odd-man rushes and opposing players wide open in front of the net during Capitals games. If they want to beat the skilled New York Islanders, Washington forwards, defensemen and goalies must bring their best defensive game.
The New York Islanders see fewer defensive struggles. They have allowed 106 goals against in 46 games, giving them an average of 2.33 goals in each game and placing them among the best in the NHL in goals against. Goaltenders Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov have both been impressive this year and have very important to the Islanders. New York also has a strong defensive core who do not put up as many points as Washington defensemen but are very effective in preventing opponents from scoring. If the Islanders can prevent the Capitals from putting up a large score they will frustrate Washington and are likely to be successful in the mini-series.
With the Capitals’ high-scoring offense and the Islanders’ skilled players and defense, the teams are well-matched and will bring exciting performances to each of these next three games.