Capitals Pregame: Caps visit the Islanders in big Metro tilt
The Washington Capitals (36-21-7) go on the road after a short two game home-stand to take on the division-leading New York Islanders (37-19-7) at the Nassau Coliseum. Puck drops at 7:05 EST. Braden Holtby will get the start in net for the boys in red, while Thomas Greiss will be tasked with stopping the Caps offense for the Islanders.
A lot of potential points on the line here in this game. The Islanders have led the division for nearly all of 2019, surprising many experts who had picked them to finish last. The Islanders won an emotional reunion game last night versus the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 6-1. The Leafs, who signed former Islanders captain and 1st overall pick John Tavares, had no answer for a raucous Long Island crowd that pumped the Coliseum with energy from before puck drop to the final whistle.
The Capitals, who finished off the two game home-stand against the Ottawa Senators, have scored 13 goals in their past two games, albeit against teams that aren’t going to qualify for the playoffs. Despite the quality of competition, it gave new additions Nick Jensen and Carl Hagelin plenty of time to form some chemistry with their new linemates.
This will be the first time that the Capitals will play in the Nassau Coliseum since defeating the Islanders in the 7-game series in he Eastern Conference quarterfinals back in the 2014-2015 playoffs.
After a tough January that saw Holtby post a sub .900 save percentage, he has gone on to record a 5-4-1 record with a save percentage of .918.
Captain Alex Ovechkin is currently the leading goalscorer and point-getter for the Capitals. He currently has 45 goals, which leads the NHL, and has 74 points, ranked 13th in the league.
Keys to the game:
1) Capitals need strong goaltending from Braden Holtby tonight. The Islanders have made a habit of coming at teams in waves. They are an opportunistic bunch, and it’ll be up to Holtby to turn away and control shots that go unblocked by Capitals defenders
2) Skate. The Islanders are playing on the second half of a back-to-back, having played the Leafs just last night. The Capitals need to wear out a New York team that expended a ton of energy to beat John Tavares and company. If the Capitals can use their feet to get up and down the ice, the Islanders tired legs will have a hard time keeping up, and should lead to power play opportunities for the good guys.
3) Better play in the neutral zone. Both acquisitions made by General Manager Brian McClellan were aimed to improve a faulty PK and bad neutral zone play. The Islanders create havoc and have forced tons of errors this entire season. Better neutral zone play will allow the offensive zone to open up. Crisp passing and quick decisions should neutralize an Islander team that are very quick to create turnovers and shut down passing lanes.