Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders: Round 1, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders NHL Playoffs Round 1
Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders

The New York Islanders were on the defensive for most of the game, but the Washington Capitals still couldn’t create enough chances to keep their season alive. The Capitals only managed to sneak through 21 shots on Semyon Varlamov  and had 31 other attempts rejected by the Islanders defense. Anthony Beauvillier continued his strong postseason with goals in the middle of the first and second periods before the Islanders finished the job with a pair of empty-net tallies.

New York Islanders win 4-1

The New York Islanders deserve all the credit for demoralizing the Washington Capitals in this series because the Capitals never looked dangerous in any of the five games. New York’s defensive structure was a puzzle Washington could never solve in this series and Nicklas Backstrom’s injury didn’t help matters, either. There are still questions about whether the Islanders offense, but New York has continued to score timely goals, which is all you really need in the NHL playoffs. Despite entering the playoffs in the qualifying round, the Islanders look to be the best team in the Eastern Conference at the moment.

Game 1

August 12th, 3 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

The Washington Capitals’ prize for beating Boston in Sunday’s final round-robin game was a matchup against the coach that led them to the Stanley Cup two seasons ago. Barry Trotz has his seventh-seeded New York Islanders squad playing at a high-level in dispatching the Panthers in four games in the qualifying series. Even as the No. 3 seed, Washington will have its hands full with a confident Islanders team after splitting the season series with them this year.

The Capitals really struggled in the round robin without defenseman John Carlson, who the team is hopeful will return for this series. Washington’s bigger concern, however, should be a sputtering offense that produced just five goals in the round robin. Alex Ovechkin was held without a point, Nicklas Backstrom had just an assist and Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal in the three games, totals that won’t be good enough to win an NHL playoffs series.

Making matters worse is that the Capitals are playing an Islanders team that if nothing else has proven its defensive structures are working really well. Say what you want about Florida’s offense, but the Islanders still limited the Panthers to just 103 shots in four games, which is about 26 shots per game. New York also held Florida to a little less than two goals per game and Seymon Varlamov – another ex-Capitals connection – stopped 93.2 percent of the attempts he faced.

Washington is the favorite according to the NHL betting sites in New Jersey and listed at -182 odds, but the better play is to pick the Islanders at +150 to upset the Capitals. Washington’s defense will be improved with Carlson’s return, but a struggling offense will find it difficult to create chances against New York. Braden Holtby won’t be able to carry the Capitals in this series, and it’ll be a frustrating early exit for Washington.

In the opening game, the Islanders will benefit from Carlson trying to adjust back to the speed of play while New York is still in a rhythm itself. The Capitals really need to get their top offensive players going early in this series, but that will be a challenge in the opening game. It’ll take a game for Washington to look like itself again, so takethe Islanders +115 to deal the opening blow in the series.


Game 2 (New York Islanders lead 1-0)

August 14th, 8:00 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

The heat of the NHL playoffs was on full display in a penalty-filled first game Wednesday between the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders. The teams combined for 40 penalty minutes and 11 power plays as the energy of this series turned up in hurry after Anders Lee’s hit on Nicklas Backstrom. That animosity will only ramp up for Friday’s Game 2 when the Capitals will be fighting to right the ship after surrendering four unanswered goals in Wednesday’s loss.

Washington is certainly feeling a lot of pressure after failing to take its play to another level for the actual NHL playoffs. The Capitals’ struggles in the round robin continued in Game 1 as Washington managed just 13 even strength shots and could only solve Seymon Varlamov on the power play. The Capitals threw 12 shots on Varlamov while on the man advantage, but could only beat him twice on seven power plays in the game.

If New York stays out of the penalty box, it seems like the Islanders will be at a distinct advantage. Although they did score the eventual game-winner shorthanded, all of Washington’s offense was generated on the power play. When the teams were at even strength, the Islanders carried the play and looked the more dangerous of the two teams. That’s a credit to Barry Trotz’s defensive systems and just how well the Islanders are executing their coach’s plans at the moment.

The NHL betting sites in New Jersey are betting on the Capitals to bounce back in a big way Friday, but I don’t know if I see that happening. Washington is the better team if it ever finds its game, but the potential of not having Backstrom in the lineup is crippling to an already out-of-form offense. Without assurance that the Capitals will have their best center on the ice for Game 2, I’d lean towards the Islanders to continue where they left off Wednesday at +107 odds.


Game 3 (New York Islanders lead 2-0)

August 16th, 12:00 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

It took less than a minute for the Washington Capitals to take the lead Friday night, but in a span of roughly four minutes in the second period, the lead vanished and the New York Islanders took the lead for good. It was a frustrating night for the Capitals, who were hemmed into their own zone for long stretches in the second and third period. Washington managed just 25 shots on goal in the game and looked weak on both of its power plays to fall behind 2-0 in the NHL playoffs series.

Similar to Game 1, New York stayed patient after Washington dominated the opening minutes of the game and took an early lead. The Islanders didn’t panic when trailing after less than minute into Friday’s game and they responded within 15 seconds when the Capitals tied the game in the second period shortly after the Islanders had taken the lead. New York is showing the poise required to advance far in these playoffs, and that even-keeled energy and commitment to defense is vital to their success.

The good news for Washington is that Alex Ovechkin finally scored in his fifth game of the postseason, finding the back of the net twice in Game 2. The Capitals are certainly feeling the loss of Nicklas Backstrom on offense, but offense is not the issue right now. John Carlson, a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, was minus-3 for the game, which tells you how poorly Washington is playing in its own zone right now. The Capitals cannot win if they can’t clear the puck from their zone and actually go on the attack, which was a big problem in Game 2.

Once again, the NHL betting sites in New Jersey installed the Capitals as the favorites, and I just don’t understand it. Washington has done nothing to show me that it deserves to be favored over the Islanders, blowing a two-goal lead in Game 1 and looking unimpressive after falling behind in Game 2. The Capitals simply aren’t good enough right now defensively and Braden Holtby isn’t stopping enough pucks, either. The answer is to bet the Islanders to win in regulation at +163 odds and also take the over 5.5 goals for +112 odds.



Game 4 (New York Islanders lead 3-0)

August 18th, 8:00 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

Matt Barzal barrelled in on Braden Holtby in overtime and patiently waited out the goalie before slipping the puck under him. It was the goal just five minutes into overtime that sealed the New York Islanders’ 3-0 series lead over the Washington Capitals, bringing the official NHL playoffs closer to its first seeding upset. Of course, anyone who has watched this series understands this isn’t an actual upset and the Islanders have been the better team since the teams entered the bubble more than three weeks ago now.

The Islanders wasted a few of their chances Sunday, notably failing to score on five power plays Sunday, but they continue to make the plays when they count. Barzal’s goal was just another example of the pressure New York is applying to the Capitals in the offensive zone. New York once again held a significant advantage in shots, 34-23, and continue to find their way in and around Holtby’s net for some prime opportunities. It’s also been a clinical performance for the Islanders in this series in neutralizing big scorers and creating offense off of the defense. Alex Ovechkin had just one shot on goal for the Capitals in the game and Evgeny Kuznetsov only had two.

Washington has been known for its offense for many years, but it has disappeared in this series without Nicklas Backstrom centering the top line. The Capitals only managed 23 shots in Sunday’s game, which is bad enough for one that went into overtime, but they had just 18 at even strength. It’s the biggest issue Washington has faced in this series, and one I don’t know if it can actually fix. The Capitals need to find a way to generate more offense at even strength because the Islanders are not going to put them on the power play very often.

The only reason I’m picking Washington to win Tuesday is pride. The Capitals are going to be too proud to let themselves get swept in four games by the Islanders. But there’s nothing Washington has done in this series that gives me confidence that their pride is going to be enough to win a game against New York. The Islanders are just that much better than the Capitals right now, and it might be best for the series to mercifully end. However, the NHL betting sites in New Jersey have Washington listed at -112 odds to win the game, and I’m foolish enough to bet on Washington to save some face.


Game 5 (New York Islanders lead 3-1)

August 20th, 8:00 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

It arguably took way too long for the Washington Capitals to respond to the New York Islanders in this series. The Islanders controlled the play for long stretches in the first three games then took a 2-0 lead in Game 4 on Tuesday. It looked like Washington was about to be swept out of the playoffs before its best scorers did exactly that. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored within two minutes of each other to tie the game in the second period then Ovechkin broke the stalemate in the third to extend the Capitals’ season.

It took 19 periods of regulation and part of an overtime, but the Washington team we expected to see in the NHL playoffs finally showed up. Ovechkin and Kuznetsov were a major factor on offense and the Capitals looked far more dangerous with the puck on their stick than we’ve seen in this series. It probably shouldn’t have taken being down 2-0 in an elimination game to jumpstart the offense, but all’s well that ends well in Washington’s mind. The Capitals are just happy to see their best offensive players making an impact in the offensive zone.

New York’s special teams did a lot of good things, but it was a few minor errors that hurt them in the long run. The Islanders allowed just five shots on five Washington power plays, but Ovechkin blasted one of those home when the Islanders gave him too much space. New York had 12 shots on its own five power plays, two fewer than it had at even strength, but couldn’t convert against Holtby, who looked shaky in the first period. The Islanders simply need to convert more on their chances when they’re there in order to see off the Capitals.

For the first time in this series, the NHL betting sites in New Jersey have made this an even wager whichever way you choose. Both teams are listed at -110 odds to win the game and +250 odds to win in regulation, so there’s no difference betting whichever way your heart feels. In my opinion, the Islanders showed in the first period Tuesday how much better they are right now than Washington, and that is the team we see Thursday. The Capitals had the outburst we all expected them to have, but it required too big of a kick in the pants to do it, so the Islanders take care of business in Game 5.


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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

All Reviews by Josh Walfish