|Goaltender||2019-20 Record||GAA / SV%|
|Washington Capitals||Braden Holtby||25-14-6 (48GP)||3.11 / .897|
|New York Islanders||Semyon Varlamov||19-14-6 (45GP)||2.62 / .914|
The matchups are set. The dates are made. And Todd Reirden and the Washington Capitals will face-off against former head-coach Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The two coaches insist it is not a bare-bones ‘Reirden vs Trotz’ matchup, but we know the truth.
The Washington Capitals finished their Round Robin matches 1-1-1, defeating the Boston Bruins, losing in regulation to the Flyers, and grabbing that extra point in a shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fans critique the importance of these Round Robin games, but it is worth nothing that Washington played honestly some of its worst hockey since the season was suspended. Braden Holtby was the singular bright spot of the Round Robin games, playing in all three, and making some impressive saves along the way. Finishing atop the Metropolitan Division for a 5th straight year is no small feat, especially given how poorly the club played in those last few weeks of the season. The New York Islanders on the other hand were involved in a best-of-5 qualifying round in which they defeated the Florida Panthers, 3-1-0. In those four games, the Islanders outscored the Cats 13-7. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov played all four games, and averaged a save percentage of .929 and a GAA of 1.79 across those four starts. Within the division, Washington finished 11-12-2, and just one point worse than the Islanders within the Eastern Conference (25-13-5 (55 pts) vs 25-14-4 (54 pts)) (TheScore).
Offensively, the Washington Capitals dominate. Ranking in with the 2nd best goals for in the league (3.42), boasting nine players with 10 or more goals, and four players with 20 or more goals, there is no lack of sheer fire-power on the Caps roster. Washington also had the 3rd best shot percentage in the league, with successful goals coming at 10.7% of all shots on goal (TheScore). The Islanders averaged 2.78 goals for per game, good enough for 22nd, but throughout the four-game season series against the Caps, scored an average of 3.50 goals for, including a five-spot in their final meeting on February 10th, 2020. Interestingly enough both the Isles and the Caps scored the same number of goals across the season series, with 14 goals a-piece. Washington’s impressive 6-4 comeback on January 18th certainly was the difference-maker.
Defensively, however, the New York is stingy, allowing just 2.79 goals against (9th), compared to the Caps’ 3.07 GAA. During the 2019-20 post-season thus far, the Isles and Caps allowed the 5th and 6th fewest goals against per game, even though Washington’s goal differential is actually negative (ESPN). The Capitals’ penalty kill ranked 6th in the regular season, but in eight times shorthanded across the three Round Robin matches, did not allow a single PPG by the opposition. Only Pittsburgh and Toronto also allowed zero PPGs against, but neither team advanced to the First Round. Conversely, the Islanders allowed four PPGA’s, but went 4-for-16 (25%) through four games. The Capitals converted just once in 10 opportunities, but four teams, all of which advanced to the First Round, did not score a single PPG (ESPN).
Although this will obviously be the first time the Isles and Caps meet in the post-season with Barry Trotz as the Islanders coach, these two teams have quite the history. Historically, the Islanders are 5-2 all-time against Washington. As previously mentioned, the Capitals defeated the Isles four games to three back in 2015 in the first round, but since, the two teams have been nearly even split into wins and losses. 12 wins and 9 losses since 2016 for the Caps, and an even 4-4 split since Trotz was named bench boss will make for a very entertaining first round.
Below is the official schedule vs. NYI:
Game 1: Wed. at 3pm
Game 2: Fri. at 8pm
Game 3: Sun. Aug. 16 at 12pm
Game 4: Tues. Aug. 18 at 8pm
Game 5: Thurs. Aug. 20 TBD
Game 6: Sat. Aug. 22 TBD
Game 7: Sun. Aug. 23 TBD
Current Las Vegas odds, as of August 10, have the Capitals at a +1100 to win the Stanley Cup, and the Islanders at +1800.
ESPN.com. (2020). 2019-20 NHL Hockey Stats and League Leaders. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/nhl/statistics/team/_/stat/major-penalties/sort/majorPenalties.
mcubed. (2020). NHL : Series records : Washington Capitals against New York Islanders. Retrieved from http://mcubed.net/nhl/wsh/nyi.shtml.
TheScore. (2020). New York Islanders at Washington Capitals. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/events/23196.