The Washington Capitals finished the regular season second in the Metropolitan Division, good enough for the four seed in this year’s Eastern Conference playoffs. They will be facing the fifth seeded New York Islanders tonight at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC at 7pm Eastern. The Islanders had a chance to earn home ice in this matchup after the Capitals lost to the Rangers, but they failed to take advantage of it and Washington as mentioned above, has the home advantage in their first round series.
There is one thing that is guaranteed about these two teams facing each other, it shall be physical. While Washington should have the advantage in that department, the Isles bring a ton of speed to this series. The Capitals will also be bringing one of the biggest guns in the league to this fight, Alex Ovechkin ran away from the rest of the league with 53 goals scored this season. But it’s more than just scoring that Ovi brings to the table, he’s able to make plays for others and he’s extremely physical, he relishes contact.
The Islanders have a star of their own in young John Tavares who netted 38 goals this season and nearly won the race for points this season, falling short by just one. Tavares and New York’s offense has been nothing short of captivating at times, but they’ll be dealing with a very physical Washington defense.
One of the biggest differences between these two teams and an area in which Washington has a huge advantage is on the power play. The Capitals were the best team in the league in terms of converting on the power play and the Islanders finished 26th in penalty kill.
With they type of talent on display offensively in this series, the net minders will play a big role. Jaroslav Halak had a fairly good year, winning a record 38 games this season. Washington might have the edge in this department as well as Braden Holtby has been stellar this season, from start to finish. Holtby played in 73 games this season and he also faced the most shots this season (2,044). The 25 year old goalie just played in 25 consecutive games heading into the playoffs, his strong play this season should continue into the post season.
The last piece of the puzzle when comparing these two teams is one that can’t be evaluated on the ice, Washington with their experience is the more mentally tough of the two and that should go a long way in any postseason series. The Islanders are a young group that haven’t really been through any postseason wars, although this has the potential to be one.