|G/PG||2.89 (t-6th)||2.99 (4th)|
|GA/PG||2.43 (7th)||2.73 (23rd)|
|PP%||25.3% (1st)||18.7% (16th)|
|PK%||81.2% (14th)||78.0% (26th)|
Nov. 26 – NYI 3 – 2 WSH (OT)
Nov. 28 – WSH 5 – 2 NYI
Dec. 29 – NYI 4 – 3 WSH (OT)
Feb. 21 – WSH 3 – 2 NYI (SO)
This is the sixth time that the Islanders have qualified for the playoffs in the last 13 seasons, but they have failed to get out of the first round in each appearance.
This season, they come in cold against a different Capitals team than anyone is used to seeing. Head coach Barry Trotz has them playing defence, but they still have a boatload of offence to go around as well.
This season, Alex Ovechkin once again led the NHL in goals (53) and goaltender Braden Holtby was outstanding all season-long. Holtbeast was first in the NHL in games played (73) and saves (1,887), second in Wins (41), fifth in GAA (2.22) and seventh in SV% (.923). In his four starts against the Islanders, Holtby was 2-0-2 with a 2.62 GAA and .918 SV%.
He will go head-to-head with Jaroslav Halak who was fifth in wins (38) and 23rd in both GAA (2.43) and SV% (.914). Despite putting together a nice year, Halak doesn’t come in on the best of notes. He went 3-2-2 with a 2.81 GAA and .911 SV% down the stretch, so he will need to elevate his game if the Islanders are going to slow down Ovi and the Caps.
As good as Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are for Washington, you obviously can’t sleep on John Tavares on Long Island. J.T comes into the postseason on a six-game point streak, posting four goals and eight assists (12 points) over that span. In his only playoff appearance (2012-13), when the Islanders gave the Penguins a scare, he had three goals and two assists in the six-game series.
Tavares, who is only 24-years-old himself, is surrounded by young talent—Kyle Okposo (26 years old), Josh Bailey (25), Anders Lee (24), Ryan Strome (24) and Brock Nelson (23). This is the core of the Islanders roster and this should just be the beginning of good things to come in the Isles’ future. I don’t think the Islanders have enough to get past the Capitals, but the playoff experience for these young guys will only serve to help them down the line.
On the blue line, both teams bolstered their respective units in the offseason. Washington brought in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik in free agency. They play 22:21 (Niskanen) and 21:48 (Orpik) per night, which has allowed Mike Green to fall to the third pair and have less pressure on the defensive side of things. The Islanders traded for both Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, who combined for 19 goals and 53 assists (72 points) in 150 games. Of those 72 points, 27 came on the power-play, which is going to be key in this series.
Washington had the top PP in the NHL (25.3%) while the Islanders really struggled on the PK (78.0%). Thankfully for New York fans, the Islanders were the sixth least penalized team in the league. However, if they get into penalty trouble, the Capitals might put this one to bed early.
However, if the season series tells us anything, this will be a tight series. Of their four meetings, three of them went to overtime, with one ending in a shootout. Ultimately, the Capitals have more experience and the better goaltender, so they should be moving to the second round to face the Rangers.
Series Prediction: Capitals win in 6
Leading Scorer: Alex Ovechkin
Series X-Factor: Evgeny Kuznetsov
Other Eastern Conference Series Previews: