Islanders 3 keys to Game 2: Take advantage of opportunity

Head coach Barry Trotz and assistant coach Lane Lambert of the New York Islanders (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Head coach Barry Trotz and assistant coach Lane Lambert of the New York Islanders (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Follow these three keys and the New York Islanders should take a commanding 2-0 lead in their series against the Washington Capitals.

Are you ready for Game 2 between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals? If you thought Game 1 was chippy and physical, Game 2 looks to resemble a Royal Rumble.

Top of mind for the Capitals will be trying to win the game, but just under that, is making the Islanders pay for the fact that their star player (Nicklas Backstrom) is not in the lineup after what Todd Reirden called a “predatory” hit.

That leads directly to key number one.

Take Advantage of their Advantages

The Islanders have two big advantages in Game 2, the first is that Nicklas Backstrom won’t be on the ice for the Washington Capitals.

After Anders Lee hit Backstrom (with an admittedly late hit) in the first period of Game 1, Backstrom did not return and won’t dress for Game 2 as he goes through concussion protocol.

It’s unfortunate that Backstrom is injured, you never want to see that happen, but the games do go on and his absence is a big advantage for the Islanders.

Without Backstrom, the Capitals will run (in no particular order) Kuznetsov, Eller, Dowd, and Boyd as their forward spine. That’s not a particularly strong spine. The Islanders have to press that advantage throughout the game. Specifically at 5on5 where the Isles were dominant in Game 1.

The second advantage is that Nicklas Backstrom won’t be on the ice for the Washington Capitals. Yes, I wrote that twice on purpose.

We know that the Capitals will use Lee’s actions in Game 1 as a lightning rod to get them back into the series. It’s why Caps head coach Todd Reirden called Lee’s hit “predatory”.

Even though Lee fought both John Carlson and Tom Wilson in Game 1 for his actions, the Caps will be gunning for him, and just about anyone else not wearing red, white, and blue. The Islanders have to continue their physical play in this series but let Caps make the mistakes.

The Capitals are already heated. They can be provoked into making mistakes with physical (but legal) play. Again, the Islanders have to press their advantage here.

An overhead view of the penalty box at the home of the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
An overhead view of the penalty box at the home of the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Stay Out of the Box, Please

In Game 1, the Islanders handed the Washington Capitals a lifeline with their parade to the penalty box. With seven power-play opportunities, the Capitals were able to get the chances they needed to get on the board and build a 2-0 lead. But without that power play, the Capitals aren’t in Game 1.

Through 36 minutes of 5on5 time through Game 1, the Islanders held a 37 to 26 Corsi advantage (58.73%), a 20-11 shot advantage, a wild 21-9 scoring chances-for advantage, and a 9-3 high-danger chances-for advantage.

Oh, and a 3-0 goals-for advantage. This game was not even close at 5on5.

With 15:11 of power play time, the Capitals had 12 shots on net (that’s 46% of their shots during the game), had ten scoring chances, seven high danger chances, and two goals.

Let that sink in for a second. That 15:11 of time on the power play is a wild number. That’s a quarter of the game on the man-advantage for the Washington Capitals. That cannot, under any circumstance, happen again.

I’m sure Barry Trotz has repeated that numerous times to his team in the leadup to Game 2. Washington will come out firing on all cylinders not only to avenge their fallen teammate but to avenge their 4-2 loss in Game 1.

The Islanders can’t lose themselves in the moment and fall into a game of physical one-upmanship with the Capitals. They will certainly lose that games based on how ineffective the Isles penalty kill is.

The Islanders have the third-worst PK in terms of inefficiency at 71.4 percent. Only the Jets and Coyotes are worse for all 24 teams at 70.6 and 68.8 percent, respectively.

Stay out of the box.

Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Get at Holtby

I don’t mean physically. I say that so Caps fans don’t think I want the Islanders to place a ‘bounty’ on Holtby.

What I mean by ‘get at’ is get shots at him and get traffic in front of him.

Holtby hasn’t been that same goalie he was under Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn. Over the last two seasons, Holtby has averaged a 2.95GAA and 0.905SV%. I shouldn’t have to tell you how awful those numbers are.

To be totally fair to Holtby, his decline started in 2017-18 where he averaged a 2.99GAA and 0.907SV%. But he bounced back in the playoffs with a 2.16GAA and 0.922SV% on the way to a Stanley Cup win. So 2017-18 wasn’t that bad for Holtby.

Through four postseason games in 19-20, Holtby holds a 2.50GAA and 0.907SV%. His -1.94 goals saved above average is the second-worst for active goalies (who’ve played at least four games) in the postseason. Only Corey Crawford is worse with a -5.52 GSAA.

Holtby is not the rock at the back that he used to be. And it’s not like the Capitals have a better option. Ilya Samsonov didn’t travel with the team to Toronto after picking up an injury prior to the return to play.

The Capitals goalie is a weakness.

There no more evidence to back that up than the Islanders first goal in the series. A goal that just about

any

NHL goalie should be able to get, let alone one who used to be a catcher.

Holtby won’t let those in every night, but that shows a goalie that isn’t confident and isn’t positionally sound. At least at the moment. The Islanders

must

press Holtby and keep him from dialing it in.

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