Old Friends, New Rivalries; Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders

RecordGoaltenderGAA / SV%
Washington Capitals3-0-3Vitek Vanecek2.77 / .938
New York Islanders3-2-0Semyon Varlamov0.33 / .988
Predicted Goaltenders

Finally, the Washington Capitals play a New York team that isn’t the Sabres. But it is Barry Trotz and the Islanders, who are 3-2-0 through five games, and have absolutely decimated the Capitals over the last couple years. Washington has just one win in their last six games against the Islanders, and four of their losses were in the first round of the 2019-20 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

On Sunday, the Washington Capitals were defeated by the Buffalo Sabres for the first time this season, by a score of 4-3. For a 2nd straight game, it took a shootout to determine a winner, but it didn’t go the Caps’ way this time. Once again, Vitek Vanecek got the start in goal, Connor McMichael made his NHL regular season debut, and Trevor van Riemsdyk played his first game as a Capital. Nick Jensen was the healthy scratch with TVR in the lineup.

Justin Schultz tallied his first goal of the season, and his first as a member of the Washington Capitals, at the 6:58 mark of the first period to give the Caps a 1-0 lead. It was only fitting for a team that takes so many minor penalties for Connor McMichael to be called for hooking in his first career NHL game. The Sabres went on to receive four more power play opportunities and would convert on three of them. At the 10:07 mark of the second period, Colin Miller scored on the Sabres power play to tie the game, 1-1. Then, just under two minutes later, TJ Oshie scored with Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen in the box for tripping to make it 2-1, Caps. But just over 60 seconds after Oshie’s lead-restoring goal, Victor Olofsson scored his 3rd of the season to tie it again. Gaining, tying, and giving up leads has been the story of these two teams in their four games thus far. At the 7:24 mark of the third period, with Nic Dowd in the penalty box for his 2nd minor of the game, Eric Staal scored his 2nd goal in two games, making it 3-2, to give Buffalo their first lead of the game. Nicklas Backstrom quickly eliminated that lead with a Capitals power play goal two minutes later.

Neither the Sabres nor the Capitals would score again in regulation, so overtime was needed, but even the extra 5-minute 3-on-3 period wasn’t enough. For the 2nd straight game, a shootout would determine the winner, but this time the ice tilted in favor of the Sabres. Jack Eichel put up the single successful shot attempt to win it for Buffalo, 4-3.

Nicklas Backstrom is the Caps’ leading point-getter and goal-scorer (4G, 7 pts). Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson both have three goals apiece, and Oshie and Dowd both have two goals. All but five skaters have at least one point. It is worth noting that three of them, TVR, Brian Pinho, and Jonas Siegenthaler all have played just one or two games. Dmitry Orlov and Carl Hagelin are the other two point-less players, but Orlov is part of the unfit-to-play quartet.

The New York Islanders were shut out by the New Jersey Devils 2-0 on Sunday. Ilya Sorokin got the start for the Isles. Both Devils goals were scored in the first period, and the Isles couldn’t seem to solve goaltender Scott Wedgewood, who hadn’t played in three years prior to his loss on Thursday the 21st. Jack Hughes scored his 3rd goal of the season on the power play as Scott Mayfield was in the penalty box for a hooking penalty. Exactly two minutes later, just prior to the end of the period, Pavel Zacha tallied his first of the season to give the Devils a 2-0 lead that they would ultimately hold for the remainder of the game.

New York did not convert on either of their two power play opportunities. The single bright spot of their showing was their success on their faceoffs. The Islanders won 61% of the faceoffs versus the Devils. The team ranks 2nd in the league for best faceoff percentage, as well (57.2%). Conversely, Washington’s faceoff % averages as just 44.2% (28th; 3rd worst). New York’s defense is also extremely strong; they allow an average of just 1.5 goals against per game (2nd of 31). Their penalty kill is also 2nd in the league, killing off 93.3% of all penalties taken. However, the Isles are assessed the 3rd most penalty minutes (average) in the league; 11.5 per game.

Semyon Varlamov has been outstanding through four games thus far. The former Caps/Avs goaltender had a 3-0-0 record, a 0.33 GAA, and a .988 save percentage. Two of his three wins came as shutouts. It is unclear who will start for Washington, but it will likely be Vitek Vanecek once again, as he truly has been the one to keep the Caps in these last handful of games. Vitek impressively stopped a whopping 45 of 48 shots on goal in the loss to the Sabres on Sunday. Back-up Craig Anderson has yet to play a game for the Capitals since being called up from the taxi squad, but its improbable that he will make his debut versus the Islanders.

The New York Islanders are without the services of Tom Kuhnackl (IR-NR, shoulder) and Anthony Beauvillier (DTD, undisclosed). Due to violation of COVID-19 protocols, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, and Ilya Samsonov are still out of the Caps’ lineup. Tom Wilson skated with the team on Monday, which is encouraging news.

NBCSN and NBCSWA+ will be covering Capitals vs Islanders, from Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, with puck drop coming shortly after 7:00pm.

The Capitals revealed their alternate third jerseys on Monday, which they will utilize for the next three seasons. Featuring the classic ‘W’ and three star logo of DC, the navy blue, deep red, and and white jersey is eerily reminiscent of the Caps’ Stadium Series uniform from 2018. What do you think?


Below is a schedule of the games the Capitals will wear the third jerseys:

Jan. 26vs. New York Islanders7 p.m.
Feb. 7vs. Philadelphia Flyers12 p.m.
Feb. 21vs. New York Rangers7 p.m.
Mar. 25vs. New Jersey Devils7 p.m.
Apr. 8vs. Boston Bruins7 p.m.
Apr. 15vs. Buffalo Sabres7 p.m.
May 1vs. Pittsburgh Penguins7 p.m.
*All Times Eastern

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