Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals face the New York Islanders in a three-game series that will see the two play twice in Long Island and once in the District. The series could decide who takes the East Division crown.
Unlike the previous two seasons, the home team has won every game when the Capitals and Islanders have collided this season and the Capitals have won three out of five, including a 3-1 win at Capital One Arena on March 16. The Islanders took the most recent game by a score of 1-0 on April 6.
The series starts Thursday and continues Saturday in New York before the teams come to Washington for a Tuesday evening contest. All three games will start at 7 PM ET and can be seen on NBC Sports Washington locally. NBCSN will broadcast Tuesday’s game nationally.
The Islanders will conclude a three-game homestand on Saturday and opened it with a dominating 6-1 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday. They have won six of their last seven (6-1-0) at Nassau Coliseum and are 16-2-1 in their last 19 games there. The Islanders’ 19-2-2 home record this season is the best in the NHL. After the two home games against the Capitals, the Islanders, who are just 10-11-2 on the road, start a two-game road trip and a stretch where they will play four of five away from Long Island.
The Islanders have recovered from a 3-4-2 start to the season and enter Thursday’s game with an identical 29-13-4 record to the Capitals. The two teams share the East Division lead with both down to 10 games left before the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tuesday’s win was the Islanders’ second straight after losing their previous two and three of their previou four. Since the Capitals ended their nine-game winning streak on March 16, the Islanders are 10-7-0.
Center Mathew Barzal leads the Islanders with 25 assists, 38 points, and a +16 rating in 46 games this season. However, the 23-year-old has gone three straight without a point and has just four assists in eight games since a four-game point-streak ended. Barzal recorded three goals and five points in an 8-4 win over the Capitals on April 1. Center Brock Nelson leads the Islanders with 16 goals this season.
At the NHL trade deadline, the Islanders acquired forward Kyle Palmieri (who has one goal, two points, and a -3 rating in seven games since joining the team) and center Travis Zajac (one goal, two points, and an even rating in seven games) from the New Jersey Devils in addition to defenseman Braydon Coburn (even rating in one game) from the Ottawa Senators.
The Islanders’ average of 2.28 goals-against per game this season trails only the Vegas Golden Knights (2.18) but their average of 2.80 goals per game is just below the league average of 2.84. Their 17.5% power-play efficiency ranks 25th but their 82.5% penalty-killing rate entered Wednesday at 10th. The Islanders’ average of 29.2 shots per game is 23rd but their average of 28 shots-against per game ranks fifth. Their team faceoff winning percentage of 51.2% is 10th.
The Islanders’ 48.81% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage is currently 18th and their 53.15% expected goals-for percentage ranks sixth. The team’s 51.19% scoring chances-for percentage entered Wednesday at 12th and 9.03% five-on-five shooting percentage is the seventh-best. The Islanders’ .9285 five-on-five save percentage is good for fifth while their 1.019 PDO is third.
The Capitals conclude a four-game road trip after their second game on the Island and begin a three-game homestand and a stretch where they will finish the season with six of eight games at Capital One Arena on Tuesday. They are 15-7-2 away from Capital One Arena this season, including 13-5-0 since February 14, and 14-6-2 at home but have lost two of their last three there after going 9-2-1 in their previous 12 at Capital One Arena.
Since a season-long seven-game winning streak ended on March 20, the Capitals have gone 9-7-0 but have won four of their last six (4-2-0). They have had three days off since a 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins. The Capitals and Islanders’ dips in play since their hot streaks have opened the door for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who host the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, in the East Division as they trail both teams by just one point for first place.
Center Nicklas Backstrom leads the Capitals with 33 assists, which is tied with Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau for 13th, and 47 points, which ranks 15th, in 46 games this season. After a three-game point streak where he recorded one goal and five points ended, the 33-year-old posted two assists against the Bruins.
Captain Alex Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 24 goals, which is currently tied for third. After posting five goals and eight points in six games, the 35-year-old posted a -4 rating against the Bruins. Forward Anthony Mantha, who was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for forward Jakub Vrana, forward Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 second-round pick on April 12, has posted four goals and five points and has scored in each of his four games since the trade.
Forward Michael Raffl, who has not played since April 10 due to an upper-body injury, could make his Capitals’ debut after being acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a 2021 fifth-round pick on April 12.
The Capitals’ average of 3.50 goals-per-game trails only the Colorado Avalanche (3.58) but their average of 3.02 goals-against per game ranks 19th. The Capitals’ 27.6% power play efficiency is the NHL‘s best and their 83.5% penalty-killing rate ranks seventh. Their average of 28.7 shots per game is 26th but their average of 29.4 shots-against per game ranks 13th. The Capitals’ 48.8% faceoff-winning percentage entered Wednesday ranked 22nd.
The Capitals’ 49.26% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage and 49.93% expected goals-for percentage are both at the league average. Their 49.77% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage is 17th. The Capitals’ 10.82% five-on-five shooting percentage is the best. Their .9139 team save percentage ranks 22nd and 1.022 PDO trails only the Minnesota Wild (1.026).
Islanders – Semyon Varlamov, 32 (17-9-3, .923 save percentage, 2.20 goals-against average, four shutouts this season), and Ilya Sorokin, 25 (12-4-1, .922 save percentage, 2.02 goals-against average, three shutouts.
In 16 career regular-season games against his former team, Varlamov is 6-9-1 with a .914 save percentage, a 2.84 goals-against average, and one shutout, including 2-3-0 with an .886 save percentage and a 3.04 save percentage this season. He made 29 saves to earn a shutout against them on April 6 when the two teams met last. Sorokin has yet to play a game against the Capitals in his career.
Capitals – Ilya Samsonov, 24 (11-3-1, .898 save percentage, 2.84 goals-against average, one shutout), and Vitek Vanecek, 25 (17-9-3, .908 save percentage, 2.77 goals-against average, one shutout.
Samsonov is 3-2-0 with an .869 save percentage and a 3.65 goals-against average in five career games against the Islanders, including 1-1-0 with an .848 save percentage and a 4.06 goals-against average this season. He allowed six goals on 24 shots in the first 43:34 before getting pulled in the Capitals’ 8-4 loss on Long Island on April 1. Vanecek is 2-1-0 with a .929 save percentage and a 2.47 goals-against average against the Islanders this season, including a 38-save performance in the Capitals’ 1-0 loss at Nassau Coliseum on April 6.
By Harrison Brown