Photo: The Boston Globe
The Washington Capitals clash with the New York Islanders for the first of four meetings this season at Barclays Center for likely the final time on Monday night. The Capitals won three out of the four meetings with the Islanders last season, including a 7-3 victory at Barclays Center on March 16. NBC Sports Washington will have the coverage with puck drop slated for a 7 PM start.
The Capitals come into Monday’s tilt with the Islanders looking for their sixth straight victory and seventh in their past eight games. The team is 4-1-0 in their past five road games after defeating the New York Rangers by a score of 5-3 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon to kick off their annual fathers’ trip, which they will conclude against the Islanders in Brooklyn. The team has scored at least three goals on the road in five of their past six road games, winning all but one of them.
Washington’s top line of captain Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom, and forward Tom Wilson has powered the team in their hot streak as of late. Ovechkin is riding a five-game point streak, where he has tallied five goals and seven points in that span. He has scored a goal in each of Washington’s past two games, both wins, and is tied for third in league goal-scoring with 17 goals with forward David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins. Wilson has scored in each of the past three games and has recorded a point in six of seven games since returning from a 16-game suspension, amassing four goals and nine points in that span. Backstrom has posted four goals and 12 points in 11 games before being held off the scoresheet against the Rangers on Saturday.
The Capitals have won five straight games despite missing the services of forwards T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov in all five games. The two forwards are each day-to-day with upper-body injuries, possibly concussions. Kuznetsov traveled with the team to New York for the trip but Oshie did not. Reirden told reporters prior to Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Rangers that Kuznetsov is closer than Oshie to a potential return. However, the team was off on Sunday, indicating neither is likely to face the Islanders.
Washington enters Monday’s tilt with the Islanders ranked fifth in goals-per-game average with 3.43 and fourth in power-play efficiency converting at 27.8%. The Capitals’ four leading scorers average at least a point-per-game: Ovechkin (1.17), Kuznetsov (1.17) defenseman John Carlson (1.14), and Backstrom (1.09). Backstrom and Carlson co-lead the team with 12 power-play points while Ovechkin and Kuznetsov are right behind them with 11. Ovechkin leads the team with seven power-play goals, one more than Kuznetsov for first.
Goaltender Braden Holtby will start for the Capitals against the Islanders. The 29-year old goaltender is 8-5-2 with a save percentage of .913, a goals-against average of 2.86, and one shutout on the season. He is 4-2-0 with a .960 save percentage and a goals-against average of 1.59 in his last six appearances dating back to November 7. Lifetime against the Islanders, Holtby is 14-4-3 with a save percentage of .919 and a goals-against average of 2.46.
Head coach Barry Trotz will face his former team for the first time since resigning as head coach of the Capitals on June 18. He brought former Capitals’ assistant coach Lane Lambert and director of goaltending Mitch Korn with him to New York, where he signed three days after he resigned from the Capitals. Trotz guided the Capitals to two Presidents’ Trophies and the franchise’s first Stanley Cup last season. In his career with the Capitals, Trotz had a regular-season record of 205-89-34. In his first season with the Islanders, Trotz may very well be the Jack Adams favorite, which is awarded to the coach of the year, guiding the Islanders to a 12-8-2 record through 22 games, good for third in the Metropolitan Divison behind the Capitals (29 points) and the Columbus Blue Jackets (28).
After the Islanders fell from second in the division in December to finish 11th in the conference with 80 points, the team lost captain John Tavares in free agency. Expectations going into the season for the Islanders were for them to likely be a contender for Jack Hughes, the unanimous favorite to be the No. 1 draft pick the upcoming NHL Draft. After a 9-3-1 start, the Islanders only won two of their next seven games. However, they enter Monday’s tilt with the Capitals winners of two straight after that tough stretch. Trotz has helped instill a strong defensive system in New York and has guided them to 13th in the league with a goals-against per game average of 2.86 and 16th in the league with a penalty killing rate of 79.7% after the Islanders finished last season worst in the league in both categories by far a season ago with a goals-against per game average of 3.57 and a penalty-killing efficiency of 73.2%.
After the departure of Tavares, forward Josh Bailey leads the team with 21 points and is second on the team in goals (seven) behind center Brock Nelson (nine) and in assists (14) behind center Mathew Barzal (17), who led the Islanders with 63 assists and 85 points a season ago and won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Bailey, 29, broke out last season with 53 assists and 71 points after never getting higher than 56 points in a single season before 2017-18.
Despite losing Tavares, the Islanders have averaged the same amount of goals (3.18) as last year but they’ve seen their power-play take a hit converting at 17.1%, 23rd in the NHL, after finishing last season with an efficiency of 23.2%, sixth in the NHL. New York may be scoring as much as they did last season but average the second-fewest shots per game average at 27.9. Only the Anaheim Ducks average fewer (27). The Capitals ranked dead last with an average of 29 shots per game under Trotz last season.
The Islanders made a fair amount of moves, non of which being high-profile during the offseason after the departure of Tavares, signing forward Leo Komarov, who already has three goals and 10 points in 19 games after recording seven goals and 19 points in 74 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs a year ago; center Valtteri Filpulla, who is tied for fourth on the team with six goals and fifth with 15 points; forward Matt Martin, who has three goals and four points in 11 games this season; forward Tom Kunhackl, who has three goals and four points in 12 games this season; defenseman Luca Sbisa, who has one assist and a -2 rating in five games this season; and goaltender Robin Lehner, who is 4-5-1 with a save percentage of .906, a goals-against average of 3.00, and one shutout this season.
Goaltender Thomas Greiss will likely get the nod against the Capitals on Monday. In 14 games this season, the 32-year old German netminder is 8-3-1 with a save percentage of .928, a goals-against average of 2.40, and one shutout. Lifetime against Washington, he is 2-1-1 with a save percentage of .926 and a goals-against average of 2.49.
-During the five-game winning streak, 10 different players have recorded a goal and 17 of the 18 skaters that have played at least two games have recorded a point; Wilson leads the team with eight points (three goals) in that span and Ovechkin leads the Capitals with five goals
-The Capitals are 11-4-3 in their past 18 games against the Islanders
-Ovechkin has recorded 52 points (34 goals) in 50 career games against the Islanders
A Look Back In Time
After the Islanders scored the first goal, the Capitals scored twice in 57 seconds with goals from Oshie and center Lars Eller. The Islanders answered a minute later but defenseman Dmitry Orlov scored from the goal line in the final three minutes of the first period to give the Capitals a 3-2 heading into the first intermission. Backstrom and forward Andre Burakovsky scored in the first 10:22 of the second period to give the Capitals a 5-2 lead. Carlson would score with less than five minutes in the game. The Islanders got back within one but Oshie would add an empty net goal for a 7-3 win. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 35 saves in the win.
By Harrison Brown