Before the New York Islanders start their journey in the second round of the 2020 playoffs, let’s remember how it all went down in round one.
The New York Islanders forced their style of play on the Washington Capitals for a gentleman’s sweep. This series had plenty of juice at times, and at others, it seemed like the Islanders sucked the life out of the Capitals. Here’s a breakdown of how it all went down.
It didn’t take long for this series to go from “I wonder if this will have the normal playoff intensity” to “I just hope this doesn’t get out of hand” in a hurry.
Anders Lee’s hit on Nicklas Backstrom was certainly well after the puck was gone and worthy of a penalty. However, you will have a hard time convincing me there was any harmful intent by Lee. I have hip-checked the car door closed harder than that hit. John Carlson confronted Lee as did Tom Wilson later in the game.
The other main storyline of this game was the Islanders taking advantage of Braden Holtby not necessarily being at his best. Jordan Eberle scored on a weak wrist shot that beat an unscreened Holtby to make it 2-1 and then Lee tied it early in the third.
Some miscommunication between Holtby and Ovechkin led to a shorthanded goal by Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauviller added the insurance goal halfway through.
This game felt like a tale of two halves. The first felt like we needed to up our game from a Panthers series that felt like smooth sailing. The second half looked like a team that answered the bell, stuck to their game, and took advantage of a goalie who made some mistakes.
The Capitals jumped out with a first-minute goal by Alex Ovechkin but it was all Islanders after that. The Islanders got five goals from five different scorers and another strong performance from Varlamov.
This game stands out for how the Islanders’ special teams performed. They went 1/5 on the power play, which is a win considering how they have performed, and 2/2 on the kill. The game where they had a decisive advantage on special teams was also the most convincing win.
The end of this game was incredibly satisfying. Watching the Islanders play keep-away with the puck, strip Capitals defenders, bury the puck in their zone, and having it end with the puck in the back of their net was a thing of art. For a fanbase that has grown accustomed to pulling the covers over their eyes with a late-game lead, this was a pleasure to watch.
I have seen some people stating that the Islanders were able to shut down Ovechkin in this series. He had a multi-goal game in this one and it wouldn’t be his last in the series. Four goals in five games is nothing to sneeze at.
Game 3 was the most memorable, had the biggest moment, and seemed like the nail in the coffin. Holtby and Varlamov were both fantastic throughout the game and once again the Islanders suffocating style kept things close.
The Islanders were putrid on the special teams in this one and that probably got overlooked because of how it ended. The Capitals converted on one of their two opportunities with the man advantage while the Isles struck out on all five chances, including giving up a shorthanded breakaway that was turned aside by Semyon Varlamov.
The sequence that ended the game in overtime was the most exciting back and forth action of the series. Varlamov stopped Jakub Vrana twice in close and 30 seconds later the puck was going the other way for the game-winning goal.
The winner started with a heads up cross-ice pass by Brassard to Eberle who eventually handed it off to the barely onside Mat Barzal. Barzal blew passed Carlson and made a nifty play to sneak it by Holtby for the biggest goal of his career so far. One can only imagine what that moment would have been like if it were at the Coliseum.
If there has been an ounce of frustration so far in this postseason for Isles fans, this was it. After goals by Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mat Barzal, the Islanders seemed to be in complete control with a 2-0 lead. It felt like the Capitals were about to fold, but to their credit, they did not.
For the first time, we saw the team get away from the calm, structured, and predictable style of play. All of a sudden the Islanders were trying to create fancy plays, make bad pinches, and take poor penalties. Once again, the Capitals were able to score on the powerplay while the Islanders went 0-5 with the man advantage.
It is hard to be disappointed when you lose one game after winning the first three, but the way it happened certainly caused concern. The Islanders looked tired, with horrid special teams and a Backstrom return looming. Shame on me for doubting this group for a second.
Pregame lineup changes appeared to not be in favor of the Islanders before puck drop. The Capitals inserted Backstrom while the Islanders sent in Ross Johnston and Michael Dal Colle over Derrick Brassard and the banged-up Cal Clutterbuck.
Backstrom started on the third line and struggled to generate offense while Johnston and Dal Colle played a simple, effective game. Considering how much the Islanders dominated this game, I doubt substitutions or lineup changes had anything to do with the outcome.
Beauvillier started the scoring in the first and added a beautiful goal in the second off a great pass by Bailey. Beauvillier took a massive hit from Wilson after the puck went in the net. I know it’s Wilson so our default is to be enraged but I was fine with the hit. I felt Kuznetsov scored in the previous game because Pulock and Cizikas were not willing to make the same hit.
Leddy and Bailey added empty netters to give the Islanders a 4-0 win to close out the series in a picture-perfect win.
Overall, it was Beauviller, Bailey, and Varlamov leading the way in the game and the series. A convincing series win considering who they beat and how they did it. We should be very confident in this group heading into the next round.