By Ian S. Palmer
The fourth-seeded NHL Eastern Conference Washington Capitals will be facing the fifth-seeded New York Islanders in a best-of-seven opening round playoff series. The Capitals finished the regular season with a record of 45-26-11 for 101 points while the Islanders had a mark of 47-28-7 and also had 101 points. The Capitals went 2-0-2 against the Islanders this season and outscored them 12-11. This will be the first postseason meeting between these two clubs in 22 years as they last met in 1992/93.
Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders betting preview – bet365 lists the Capitals as the favorites to win the series at 20/27 with the Islanders at 23/20
Washington was the sixth-highest scoring team in the league this season with 2.89 goals per game while New York ranked fourth at 2.99. Defensively, the Capitals allowed 2.43 goals against per outing to rank seventh-best in the league while the Islanders were 23rd best at 2.73 goals against. The Capitals power play was the best in the NHL 23rd at 25.3 per cent with the Islanders ranked 16th at 18.7 per cent. As for the penalty killing stats, the Capitals were 14th-best at 81.2 percent with the Islanders’ 78.0 per cent ranking them at number 26.
The Islanders and Washington have met six times before in the playoffs with New York winning five of the series. This includes three consecutive victories between 1983 and 1985. The Islanders won the Stanley Cup in the 1982/83 campaign which topped off a run of four straight Stanley Cups. They reached the final again the next year, but failed to make it five titles in a row. Washington’s only postseason win over the Islanders came back in 1985/86 when they swept them in three games in the old Patrick Division Semifinals.
This series features two of the game’s top stars in the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin and the Islanders’ John Tavares, who are both the captain of their teams. Tavares finished second in league scoring this year with 86 points, one behind Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. Meanwhile, Ovechkin’s 53 goals led the league and earned him his fifth Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard trophy for doing so and his third in a row. The Russian winger scored four goals and an assist in the four games against the Islanders this season while Tavares had two goals and three assists against the Caps.
Washington won both home games against the Islanders with New York winning both of their home contests in overtime. One of Washington’s wins was via a shootout, so fans should realize just how close these teams were during the regular season. Washington owned the league’s best power play this year and went three for nine against the Islanders, but New York went four for 13 and also added a shorthanded goal. Islanders’ center Mikhail Grabovski, who signed as a free agent from the Capitals last summer, has been sidelined since Feb. 19 with an injury, but is expected back during this series.
Braden Holtby should start in goal for the Capitals, but he could be burned out since he played 73 games this season, winning 41 of them. Holtby’s save percentage and goals-against average were both ranked in the top 10 this year. Jaroslav Halak, who was also signed as a free agent from the Capitals, is expected in net for the Islanders. He earned 37 wins and six shutouts this term.