An underlying dynamic the Islanders need to get right against the Capitals

For the most part under head coach Barry Trotz, the Islanders have been an exceptional team on home ice, both when they still played in Brooklyn and at Nassau Coliseum. But something has still been amiss for his club against a certain opponent — a division foe I might add — when they have played host to them for the last two-plus seasons.

The Isles are 0-4-0 against the Washington Capitals on home ice since the start of the 2018-19 season.

The most recent matchup when the teams faced off on Long Island was last February — before the coronavirus hit and before they met in Toronto in the bubble postseason — and the Islanders blew a 4-1 lead in the third period only to go on and lose 6-4. The disastrous collapse was compounded with now former-Islander Devon Toews’ mocking of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s bird celebration which left Trotz infuriated.

It’s an odd little factoid, almost as weird as the team not having lost in the nation’s capital for two seasons before they were defeated there back in January. Yet, the dynamic of the Isles’ failures against their D.C. rivals as the home squad is vital, as starting tonight the two squads will meet four more times in the next four weeks — two in the next six days — all at the Coliseum. These are massive points up for grabs.

“It’s a Washington team we haven’t had obviously success against this year, so it will be nice to get them at home in a time where we’re desperate for a win,” Jordan Eberle said this week. “If you look at the last couple of games, we’re moving in the wrong direction, so we want to turn this homestand into some wins and start climbing the standings again.”

The Islanders currently sit two points behind the Caps for the top spot in the East, but the division is still very much up for grabs. Both teams are in a good position to make the postseason and these next few tilts could be the deciding factor of who will be the division champion. Of course, there’s the possibility of the Penguins stealing the top spot, as they’re red hot right now and are within striking distance. Still, the onus is on Mathew Barzal and Co. to take care of business and get the Isles back on track after this fog they’ve been in over the past two weeks.

The Isles have been the best home team in the NHL this season which should also give them a shot in the arm as they welcome Washington for the first time.

With 20 games left in the season, getting even with the Caps could really help propel the Trotz’s skaters in the final stretch of their season. But they need to show they can beat them on home ice.

With the trade deadline 11 days away, the talk about what the Isles and g.m. Lou Lamoriello is only ramping up more and more. There was fire added to those flames last night when TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that there’s heavy speculation the organization could be in on trying to acquire Taylor Hall.

Hall, 29, has been a hot topic among the Islanders faithful even before captain Anders Lee went down with a season-ending ACL injury three weeks ago. His numbers have been awful this year — 18 points in 35 games — but a lot of that could also be attributed to him playing on a historically bad Sabres club.

The Islanders are expected to get d-man Noah Dobson back in the lineup tonight, which could provide a nice boost for the Islanders. The 21-year-old has been out since going on the NHL’s COVID-19 list back on March 14th. Thomas Hickey has been in place of Dobson while he was sidelined and done a serviceable job.

Dobson though elevates the Islanders at both ends of the ice and his steady demeanor is something the team has been missing without him.

New York Islanders: Breaking down the possible division realignment

New York Islanders

The National Hockey League has taken giant steps to get a 2020-2021 season on the way. Earlier this week, it was confirmed that the season will start on January 13th. Only a couple of hours later, the NHL announces there will be a division realignment due to COVID-19.

The New York Islanders are in the “USA 1” division. This is just my name holder for the division, so don’t look so far into this. This division has a bunch of good teams and a few terrible teams. I think it’s the most well-rounded division out of the four. Let’s see who will be the Islanders’ toughest task in this new 56 game season.

Boston Bruins

There’s something about Boston. I don’t know if it’s in the drinking water or the clam chowder, but every year one Boston team is great. The Bruins have been great for so unbelievably long, and they show no signs of slowing down. Their true top line is the scariest line in the league. Along with forwards like Jake Debrusk, Craig Smith, and Charlie Coyle, their forward core is deep.

On the other hand, their defense got much worse during the offseason. They lost two key defenders in Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. The speedy Islander forwards shouldn’t have much trouble navigating through the new defense.

Washington Capitals

I love and hate the Washington Capitals. They’re such a good team, and I love their top line, but man, they need to go away. People call the Islanders pesky, but what about the Washington Capitals? They keep getting more and more talented as the years go on. Yes, they lost Braden Holtby. But, they gained Daniel Sprong, Justin Schultz, and Henrik Lundqvist. I fully expect the Capitals to make another run at the Stanley Cup with their newly improved roster.

New York Islanders: 3 Keys to Win Game 5

Alex Ovechkin

The New York Islanders will play the Washington Capitals on Thursday in game 5 of the series. The Islanders are just coming off of a game 4 to forget. Other than the first 10 minutes of the first period, the Capitals dominated the Islanders. The Islanders weren’t getting shots on net; they were taking bad penalties, and not converting on the power play as per usual. If the Isles want to put the series to bed now, rather than give the Capitals hope, they need to accomplish three important tasks.

Covering Ovechkin

If you take away Ovechkin from this series, the Capitals would only have four goals and would’ve been swept already. There’s something so simple, yet difficult in covering one guy. Especially on the power play, the Isles cannot leave Ovechkin open. All Ovechkin ever does is go to the left faceoff circle and take a one-timer. I don’t care if your name is Carey Price, or Darcy Kuemper, or in this case, Semyon Varlamov, you cannot stop every shot from Ovechkin. Also, if there’s a 2v1 opportunity for the Capitals with Ovechkin, the defensemen must cover Ovie. Everyone would rather see Ovie pass to Tom Wilson and Varlamov make a stop, then Ovie ripping a wrister from 15 feet out.

Converting on the Power Play

The New York Islanders power play is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. How can you possibly go 1/19 on the power play in this series alone?  The Islanders are averaging around five power plays per game, and only converting on .052% of them.

Something must change in either the personnel or just the system of the power play. If Tom Wilson is going to board Scott Mayfield and almost destroy his collarbone, the Isles have to make the Caps pay for it. There’s no reason why this power play shouldn’t work either. There’s talent everywhere, Ryan Pulock can take a booming slapshot from the point. Jordan Eberle can walk in on any defender and go backhand to the toy department. Anders Lee can tap in basically anything, as long as he doesn’t fall. Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier can split the defenders on entries, Pageau and Nelson can win any faceoff. The list goes on and on. There is no excuse for the power play not to score.

Staying Disciplined

The Islanders cannot allow the Capitals to get power-play chances.

New York Islanders: Islanders take Game 3

New York Islanders

The New York Islanders defeat the Washington Capitals in overtime with a score of 2-1 to make the series 3-0. The Islanders made the Capitals play their style of Hockey today, and it worked. No team in the NHL can beat the Islanders in a defensive matchup. The only way to beat the Isles is to outscore them. But, if Seymon Varlamov has a game like he did today, they’re pretty much unbeatable.

The Islanders are in a great position to sweep the Capitals on Tuesday night. The mindset for the Isles right now is: “We’re up 3-0, we’re dominating board play, playing great defense, Varlamov is standing on his head, let’s just play our game.”

This team is a system team, without Trotz who knows where the Isles would be. But, the only way the system works is if everyone buys in. That’s why in the post-game press conference Mat Barzal said “the 4th game is the hardest, but we just gotta buy into the system”. The system is an easy, yet complicated one. All Trotz asks is for his players to forecheck hard, play tough in the neutral zone, and make smart passes. This system doesn’t lead to 30 goal goal-scorers, but it leads to championships if you buy-in.

The Islanders have very little work to do to win game 4. Especially if Nicklas Backstrom is still out with a concussion. The Islanders need to stay on their toes, don’t take any stupid penalties, and wait for their opportunity to arise.

None of these players are true “snipers,” but you don’t need snipers if you can get gritty goals. The Islanders play within the dots, real rough and tough Hockey, so they don’t necessarily need a sniper. If the Islanders play their game again and buy into the system, there will be a sweep coming.

Takeaways from the Islanders’ 2-0 win over the Captials

New York Islanders, Cal Clutterbuck

The New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 to take a 2-0 lead in the series. This was one of the best Islander playoff games in recent memory. The Islanders were firing on all cylinders, and for a team who “can’t score,” they scored a lot. The Isles definitely had some rough spots during this game, but that’s expected when playing a great Hockey team like the Capitals. The Islanders won 40 minutes of Hockey last night, but how, and why didn’t they win all 60?

First Period

The Capitals basically pressured the Islanders into giving up a terrible goal in the first period. Alex Ovechkin forechecked, and he was rewarded when he scored off of a slow backhander. Not even a minute in, and the Isles are one down. The rest of this period was really just good pressure by the Isles and some breaks for the Caps.

Second Period

The Islanders came to play in this period. Nic Dowd commits a penalty, and this leads to something the Islanders never do. They scored on the powerplay. Nick Leddy scores with an accurate slapshot from the point. Not even 2 minutes later, Cal Clutterbuck forechecks which leads to a Scott Mayfield pass to the crease, Matt Martin scores a tap in. A minute later, Derick Brassard leads a rush with Leo Komarov. Brassard passes it to Komarov, and he hits it off the post. Komarov missed a wide-open net. Ovechkin would take advantage of this and tie up the game once again. Finally, Brock Nelson steals the puck from Jakub Vrana and has a 1v1 with Braden Holtby. Fifteen seconds after Ovechkin ties the game up, the Islanders lead by one again.

Third Period

The last 7 minutes of this period was the best 7 minutes in recent Isles Hockey. Before that, the refs call a silly tripping penalty on Andy Greene, which leads to a blown empty-net chance by Ovechkin. Ovie had the hattrick and the game on his stick and whiffed on it. Greene comes out of the box, and then the Isles dominate 5v5 play. The Islanders at one point got two forward shifts of forechecking off before the Caps could even leave the zone. All this pressure led to JG Pageau wide open, and it was blocked, but it hit Clutterbuck’s hand and the Isles score, 4-2. Finally, after some tremendous 6v5 defense, the Islanders get the puck out, and Anders Lee scores the empty netter.

Conclusion

This was just a really solid effort from the Islanders. The Capitals are the better team on paper, but that will never stop a well-coached, determined team from winning. Game 3 is on at 12 pm EST tomorrow.

New York Islanders: Analysis of the Game 1 Win vs the Capitals

New York Islanders, Islanders

Game 1 to the Island, as the immortal Brennan Burke call goes. The New York Islanders defeat the Washington Capitals with a score of 4-2 to take a 1-0 lead in the series. The Capitals played a solid 40 minutes of Hockey, but the Islanders played an excellent final 20 minutes to take the game. The Islanders looked sloppy most of the night. There were a bunch of bad penalties, mishandled passes, bad breakout attempts, and more. Despite this, it all came down to who wanted the win more. This is how the Islanders won.

More Shots

The Islanders are notorious for taking minimal shots on goal during games. This seemed to be the case during today’s game, as they only had two shots in the first period. The Islanders started to pick up the pace after TJ Oshie’s second powerplay goal. This would ultimately lead to a Jordan Eberle wrister that would somehow sneak in over Braden Holtby’s left shoulder. As the 3rd period started, Islanders fans saw a spark in their team’s play. The Islanders began to dictate the pace of the game, and make it an all Islanders period. The Islanders would end up scoring three more goals during the 3rd period and seal the win. You can’t score without shooting.

A Quicker Pace

The Islanders have some of the fastest players in the league, like Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier. If a game breaks down into a fastbreak opportunity galore, the Islanders will win that game. The Capitals are a good team, but they’re not fast enough to keep up with the Islanders’ young guns. The Islanders kept the pressure on in the 3rd period, and it led them to many great high percentage scoring chances. The Islanders would make the best of those chances and score three goals, as previously stated.

5v5 Play

I don’t know what it is about Barry Trotz’s system, but it is insanely hard to outplay the Islanders when they’re at full strength. Especially recently, the New York Islanders haven’t been outplayed 5v5. If the Capitals weren’t gifted seven powerplays, there could’ve been a shutout in the works. The Islanders look very strong in all facets of the game and didn’t let up any easy chances.

Conclusion

Winning game 1 of any series is a huge victory. It takes the pressure of off game 2, and it allows you to be more aggressive in your approach. Islanders fans certainly feel relief with a 1-0 series lead.

New York Islanders: 2 Key Factors to Beating the Capitals

Alex Ovechkin

The New York Islanders will face the Washington Capitals in round 1 of the 2020 NHL playoffs. Most, if not all, Islanders fans wanted this matchup. No matter how cold the Boston Bruins are, they are still the toughest team to play. The Islanders have a real shot of beating the Capitals and advancing to round 2 for the second straight year. There are two keys to this series that the Islanders must complete for them to win.

Stopping Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin could be 60 years old and barely be able to skate anymore, but still, he’d be one of the most dangerous players on the ice. Ovechkin has been playing in the NHL for 19 years, and he’s still one of the most explosive players on the ice. He has had one shot that no goalie/defense could ever stop. Ovechkin goes right into the left circle and receives the pass from the defenseman at the point, boom he’s scoring that every time. There is literally a player on the ice whose specific job is to stop Ovi from getting the puck there. The Islanders must not let Ovechkin tee up his wrister if they want to win the series.

Not Getting too Fancy

The Islanders have a tendency not to take a billion shots, but instead, just take one “perfect” shot. The Florida Panthers powerplay works because they shoot for rebounds and better chances. The Islanders just pass it around for 2 minutes and take one shot from the point. The Islanders need to take 35-40 shots a game, hope for a rebound and hope that the guy you pay $7 million dollars will tap it in. The Capitals are a good team, but no good team can stop a rebound shot when the goalie is out of position.

Conclusion

The Islanders have a tough challenge ahead of them. The Capitals have Ovi, Backstrom, Vrana, Oshie, Carlson, and Holtby. It will be interesting to see Barry Trotz match up his guys.

New York Islanders: Onto the Real Round 1

New York Islanders, Barry Trotz

The New York Islanders beat the Florida Panthers today with a score of 5-1 and win the series 3-1. This is was not an unexpected outcome for NHL fans, but it was for “analysts.” The Panthers are not a playoff team right now and will have to rebuild a tad bit of their lineup to make that jump.

The Islanders dominated most of the periods during this series. The only thing the Islanders didn’t execute well on was the powerplay kill. This will be a focus of head coach Barry Trotz in the upcoming practices. Now that the Islanders won and will move on, what’s next for the team from the Island?

Scenarios

If the Montreal Canadiens win today’s game vs the Pittsburgh Penguins, they will win the series 3-1 and decide the Islander’s fate. The Islanders would play the winner of Boston Bruins vs Washington Capitals if the Canadiens win. If the Penguins win the series, the Islanders would play the loser of the Philadelphia Flyers vs the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Islanders can only play the 2nd or 3rd seed, but luckily for the Isles, they can play anyone.

Matchup Preference

I imagine that Barry Trotz is hoping to play the Capitals in round 1. It’s a familiar face, as Trotz was the former head coach of the Caps. Not only will it bring a second round birth for either team, but it will also bring bragging rights. If the Islanders win, the narrative is, “Trotz can beat any team with any team.”

If the Capitals win, the narrative is, “The Capitals didn’t need Trotz as much as we think they did.” The Islanders most likely don’t want to play the Bruins. The Bruins are the hardest team to beat in the league, even though they’ve lost their last two games. The Bruins have a superstar line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pasternak, with defenseman Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy backing them up. Along with Tukka Rask in net, the Bruins are not a team you want to run into in the playoffs.

Conclusion

The Islanders have clinched the playoffs for the second year in a row, and that’s something to be proud of. They lost their franchise center John Tavares and still found a way to win. Islanders’ fans can go to bed at night knowing that they finished farther than the Maple Leafs for the second year in a row.