After a crushing, 4-2 loss in Game 1 of their first round Stanley Cup Playoff series against former Head Coach Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders, the Washington Capitals are looking to tie the series at one game apiece on Friday night in Toronto, boosted by the return of Center Lars Eller.
A LOOK BACK AT GAME 1
After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in Game 1 thanks to two goals by right wing T.J. Oshie, the Capitals were unable to keep the momentum and watched as the Islanders scored four straight goals on goaltender Braden Holtby to win 4-2 and take a 1-0 series lead. The Isles’ comeback was boosted on goals by Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, and Anthony Beauvillier, and strong play in net by goalie Semyon Varlamov. The Capitals’ Game 1 woes were deepened by the early loss of star Center Nicklas Backstrom, who was caught unawares by a hit from Lee.
Varlamov was strong at even strength, posting a 100% save percentage. On top of that, the Islanders really controlled the game through their aggressive forecheck and by clogging up the neutral zone.
This led to dump-in attempts by the Capitals that were rarely retrieved. The Islanders also capitalized on multiple counterattack attempts, creating nine total high danger chances in this round, with six of them coming in the final frame.
Holtby struggled at times in this one too, especially with rebound control. The Caps were having difficulty containing the Islanders, and led to multiple high quality chances against Holtby.
You can read our analytics review of Game 1 here
The Capitals will look to turn the ship back on track in Game 2 after suffering a comeback win in the opening contest. However, the club will do so without the services of Backstrom, who is currently in Concussion Protocol, per Head Coach Todd Reirden, after suffering a blindside hit from Anders Lee. The loss of their star pivot will be offset, somewhat, by the return of Lars Eller, who is eligible to play after undergoing precautionary health protocols upon his return to the bubble after the birth of his second child and first son Alexander a few days ago. The Capitals will look to improve in a number of areas in the second game of the series, among them their success on faceoffs, power play execution, and even-strength play (more on this below).
As previously mentioned, T.J. Oshie was the Caps’ only goal scorer on Wednesday afternoon and passed Capitals great Dino Ciccarelli for the sixth-most playoff goals in franchise history in the process, and the Capitals will look to receive more contributions from their other key players such as captain Alex Ovechkin, who played 24:39 on Wednesday evening. The Caps were led in ice time by Center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who recorded 26:37 of ice time against the Islanders, and had five players (including Kuznetsov and Ovechkin) who recorded over 20 minutes of ice time. The Capitals as a franchise are 21-23 in Game 2s and 10-9 in series in which they trailed 1-0.
The Islanders have a lot to build upon after a comeback win on Wednesday evening, not least their existing 1-0 series lead over the Capitals. Head Coach Barry Trotz’ club prevented the Caps from getting back into Game 1, and were bolstered by strong netminding from Semyon Varlamov, who stopped 24 of 26 shots sent on him for a Save Percentage of .923. The Islanders were led in ice time on Wednesday by defenseman Adam Pelech, and after a dominating even-strength showing (more below) over Washington, the Isles will look for the same consistency in that department for a second straight victory on Friday evening.
BY THE NUMBERS
As hinted at previously, the Islanders heavily outplayed the Capitals at Even-Strength on Wednesday afternoon, and in other areas as well. The Islanders won 64% of the draws that took place in Game 1, while the Capitals won just 36%. In the shot department, the two teams were nearly even, with the Isles holding a one shot advantage over the Caps, 27-26. However, the two teams at even-strength were vastly different. Varlamov stopped all 13 shots he faced 5-on-5, for a Save Percentage of 1.00. Holtby, meanwhile allowed three goals on 20 shots faced at 5v5, for a Save Percentage of .850. In the area of Puck Possession, the Islanders once again overtook the Capitals, with a Corsi For % of 58.73 to the Caps’ 41.27. Special Teams-wise, the Capitals converted on just two of their seven power play opportunities, while the Islanders were unable to convert on any of their four chances, however they managed to score shorthanded on one of the Capitals’ man-advantages.
WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE?
The Capitals will be looking to rebound from their first game loss with a strong performance at even-strength and more offensive output from their key players. Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up his game following the loss of Backstrom in Game 1, recording an assist while leading the team in ice time. The team will also look to overcome the loss of a key player in Backstrom, and Eller may be looked at to step up in the alternate captain’s absence, an assignment he responded to well during the Caps’ 2018 Stanley Cup championship run. Alex Ovechkin has been quite productive in his career in Game 2s, having scored 15 goals and recorded 11 assists in 20 career Game 2s, and will need to continue that productivity in Game no. 21.
The Islanders had a strong showing against the Capitals on Wednesday and will aim to build upon that performance. However, having put their opponents on seven power plays in Game 1, the Isles will need to reduce the amount of time spent in the penalty box and avoid putting the Caps’ most potent offensive firepower on the ice, and likewise, will need to do better converting on the opportunies they themselves get after putting an 0-for on the board on Wednesday.
– Braden Holtby is one victory shy of becoming the 21st goaltender in NHL history to win 50 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all of which have come in a Capitals sweater
– Evgeny Kuznetsov is one playoff goal of passing Caps great (and former bench boss) Dale Hunter for fourth on the Franchise Playoff Goals List. Hunter scored 25 times in postseason play in a Capitals jersey
– Defenseman John Carlson is the team’s all-time leader in Games, Goals, and Points in postseason play among defenseman, and is one assist shy of passing Scott Stevens for most Assists in franchise playoff history among blueliners
GAME NOTES: The Capitals look to rebound in Game 2 against the New York Islanders. Since 2014-15, the Capitals are 15-12 in the postseason following a loss. https://t.co/v6GF2K2zQa pic.twitter.com/glpjk45ylE
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) August 13, 2020
By Michael Fleetwood