Photo: Geoff Burke/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals take on the New York Islanders for the final time in the regular season on Monday night. The Capitals took two of the first three meetings between the two teams, including a 6-4 victory in the last one at Nassau Coliseum/NYCB Live on January 18 thanks to a five-goal third period, after dropping their lone home game against New York by a score of 4-3 on New Year’s Eve. The road team has won every game the two teams have played over the past two seasons. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington locally or NBCSN nationally beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Islanders finish off a two-game road-trip, continuing a stretch where they play six of seven away from Long Island, and begin a set of back-to-backs. They host the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. The Islanders opened their trip with a 3-1 loss at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night and were limited to only 18 shots in the defeat. They are 14-9-2 away from the Empire State this season and have dropped four of six (2-3-1) since they last visited the District.
Since the end of their franchise-record 17-game point streak, the Islanders are 15-12-4 and are barely clinging on to the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference as they are only one point from being out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot. Their 3-1 loss at the Lightning on Saturday ended a five-game point-streak where they went 3-0-2. The Islanders allowed at least three goals in each of their past four games but scored at least three in four straight before Saturday’s loss.
After leading the team in scoring in each of his first two seasons in the NHL, center Mathew Barzal leads the Islanders with 26 assists and 44 points in 53 games this season. He has gone scoreless in his last two outings since a three-game point streak where he had one goal and four points. His 18 goals are second on the team behind only forward Brock Nelson, who has 21. Before getting held off of the scoresheet against the Lightning, the 26-year-old had two goals and five points during a four-game point streak and six goals and 11 points in his last nine games.
The Islanders’ average of 2.70 goals-against per game is the fifth-lowest in the NHL this season despite having a slightly below-average penalty-kill (79.7%), which is 17th. That certainly keeps the Islanders afloat in the Stanley Cup Playoff race as their average of 2.89 goals-per-game is 20th. Their 19.7% power-play efficiency is tied with the Flyers for 16th. The Islanders’ average of 29.5 shots-per-game is the fourth-lowest in the league.
After Semyon Varlamov allowed eight goals in his past two games against the Capitals this season, it would be fair to expect Thomas Greiss, who is 15-7-2 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.53 goals-against average this season, to be in the crease on Monday night. He has earned at least a point in six straight starts (4-0-2) while stopping 180 of 195 shots (.923 save percentage). The 34-year-old is 3-3-1 with a .927 save percentage, a 2.15 save percentage, and one shutout in seven career games against the Capitals.
The Capitals finish off a season-long four-game homestand against the Islanders on Monday night and look to finish it at .500 after getting blown out by the Flyers by a score of 7-2 on Saturday night in one of their worst performances in a month. They are 16-8-4 on home-ice this season but have dropped three of their last four and four of their last seven in regulation. The Capitals scored at least three goals in each of their previous three home games before Saturday’s loss.
The Capitals are second in the Eastern Conference this season with 77 points and lead the Metropolitan Division by four but are 3-3-0 since coming off of their bye week and 10-7-0 since earning 10 wins in 12 games (10-2-0) in December. They have allowed at least three goals four of their last five, five of their past seven, and 12 of their last 19. The Capitals look to put some breathing room between themselves and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Metropolitan Division lead as the Penguins have a game in hand on them.
Captain Alex Ovechkin will take a second shot at becoming the eighth player in NHL history to score 700 career NHL goals, with his former head coach, Barry Trotz, in attendance before the Capitals hit the road for three games. Despite getting held off the scoresheet in two of his last three, the 34-year old has posted 14 goals and 15 points in his previous seven games and leads the NHL with 40 goals this season. Defenseman John Carlson is twelfth in the league with 65 points, tied for second with Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid with 51 assists (three behind Oilers center Leon Draisaitl for the league lead), and tied with Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara for 16th with a +19 rating. He has a goal and five points in his last four games.
The Capitals’ average of 3.56 goals-per-game ranks third in the NHL this season while their average of 3.00 goals-against per game is 12th. Their 20.1% power-play efficiency is 13th, though their 84% penalty-killing rate is second behind only the San Jose Sharks. The Capitals’ average of 32 shots-per-game is tied with the Bruins and the Columbus Blue Jackets for the ninth-most in the league while their 29.7 shots-against per game is the fourth-fewest.
Goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who is 16-3-1, is tied with Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner for ninth in the league with a .923 save percentage, is tied with Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins for fourth with a 2.19 goals-against average, and has a shutout this season, will start against the Islanders on Monday. The rookie netminder has won both of his two appearances against the Islanders this season, stopping 32 of 33 shots (.970 save percentage) in the process.
- Ovechkin is aiming to reach the 700-goal mark tonight in his 1,139th career game, which would be the second-fewest games required to reach the milestone in NHL history
- Ovechkin would go from 600 to 700 goals in only 149 games, the fewest games to make that leap for any member of the 700-goal club; should he record two goals tonight, it would mark the second-fewest games Ovechkin has required to go from one 100-goal milestone to another in his career (100 to 200 goals, 129 games)
- No player on the Capitals has contributed points in more games or wins than Carlson
- Samsonov is the only goaltender in the NHL with fewer than four losses and at least 20 games played and has recorded a .667 quality start percentage – the percentage of starts a goaltender records a save percentage higher than the League average (.908) – which is tied for fourth in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 20 games
- The Capitals’ fourth-line of Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway have played together for 228:34 of five-on-five time, have recorded a 59.56 shot attempt percentage (243 shot attempts for, 165 against), a 60.00 goals for percentage (nine goals for, six against) and have out-shot opponents 125 to 79 (61.27 shots for percentage)
By Harrison Brown
Caps were in “We Surrender” mode against the Flyers, and have been sliding helplessly downward for weeks. Unacceptable for a team salaried to the Salary Cap and with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov et. al. Fans are tired of excuses. Changes are in order. Get with it!