The NHL is set up with another solid day of action on Thursday. Two games will be up on the board throughout August 20. One of these games will be between the New York Islanders and the Washington Capitals. New York has the Capitals on the ropes as they try and eliminate Washington. Puck drop for this matchup will be at around 8:00 PM Eastern time on NBCSN.
New York finished out the regular season with a record of 35-23-10, which had them in seventh place of the Eastern Conference. The Islanders met up with the Florida Panthers in the Qualifying round, which New York made quick work of in four games. New York jumped out to a 3-0 series lead and will now look to finish off the Capitals in Game 5.
The Capitals earned a record of 41-20-8, which secured them a spot in the round robin play. Washington went 1-1-1 throughout their round robin games, which put them in third place of the Eastern Conference. The Capitals finally found a way to earn a win against the Islanders in Game 4, but will need to win again on Thursday to stay alive.
These two teams have met in a solid series so far, with Washington now battling for their lives. The Capitals have their backs against the wall, but a team full of veterans who have been in this position at all. The Islanders will look to put them away in this one to avoid Washington getting any more momentum under their feet.
These two teams met in Game 1 back on August 12. T.J. Oshie had back to back power play goals to open up the scoring for Washington. Mat Barzal earned two assists for the Islanders as they came back. Josh Bailey scored the game winner shorthanded and added an assist. Semyon Varlamov stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced to help give the Islanders a 4-2 win.
The second game of this series was on August 14. Alex Ovechkin opened up the scoring and added another goal in the second period. It was not enough though as the Capitals fell short. Jean-Gabriel Pageau tallied up two assists to help propel New York to another win. Semyon Varlamov turned away 23 of 25 shots as the Islanders won 5-2.
Game 3 of this series was back on August 16. Anders Lee opened up the scoring in the first period for New York. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on the power play to tie it up for the Capitals. The game went to overtime, where Mathew Barzal scored five minutes in to give the Islanders a 3-0 series lead. Semyon Varlamov stopped 22 of 23 shots as New York won 2-1.
The fourth game of this first round series was on August 18. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mat Barzal both scored in the first period to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a goal and an assist, while John Carlson had two assists for Washington to tie it up. Alex Ovechkin scored the game tying and the game winning goal as the Capitals stayed alive in Game 4.
New York’s special team unit was not great throughout this regular season. The Islanders posted a 17.3 percent success rate on the power play. New York’s penalty kill turned away 80.7 percent of their opponents chances. In the playoffs, the Islanders power play has scored on 14.3 percent of their attempts, while killing off only 73.3 percent of the power play against them.
The Capitals had a solid special team unit throughout this season. Washington was able to score on 19.4 percent of their power play opportunities, while killing off 82.6 percent of opposing teams power play chances. Washington’s special teams have been strong in the playoffs, earning a success rate of 19.2 percent and a penalty kill rate of 96.3 percent.
These two teams have been trending in opposite ways in relation to special teams. Washington’s power play and penalty kill have been much better than the Islanders in the playoffs. New York will look to get part of their special teams going though to try and earn a series win in this one. If the Capitals can dominate Game 5 on special teams, it could give them a chance to keep this series alive.
Semyon Varlamov will get the start in net for New York in Game 5. Varlamov earned a record of 19-14-6 throughout the regular season. He posted a save percentage of .914 and a 2.62 GAA throughout those starts. In the playoffs, Varlamov has earned a .927 save percentage and a GAA of 1.87. He will look to keep up the strong play as the Islanders look to close out this series.
Braden Holtby will get the nod in the crease for the Capitals in this matchup. Holtby put up a record of 25-14-6 through the regular season. He finished the season with a save percentage of .897 and a GAA of 3.11. Holtby has gotten better as he has played more in the bubble. He has posted a .909 save percentage and a 2.55 GAA.
Varlamov has been the better goalie in the regular season and in the playoffs, but Holtby should not be underestimated. Holtby was a big piece of Washington when they won the Stanley Cup in 2018. The Capitals have been outshot in every game so far, and I expect them to try and maintain some pressure in this one. If Washington cannot get pressure though, it could give New York a great chance to move on in this series.
New York has another chance to end this series on Thursday night, but I believe that the Capitals will keep this series alive. Washington should get Nicklas Backstrom back in the lineup, which will give them a nice boost. The Capitals have dominated on special teams and if they can continue to keep that up, it will give them a chance to get a leg up.
BetOnline has Washington listed as a -115 against the money line. This implies that the Capitals will win this game around 53.5 percent of the time. Washington finally broke through in Game 4 and I expect them to take some momentum into Game 5. If the Capitals can get some consistency in the offensive zone, they should be able to push this to a Game 6.