The New York Islanders defeated the Washington Capitals 4-0 in Game 5 of round one of the Stanley Cup playoffs. New York triumphed over Washington in all parts of the game. For the second year in a row, the Caps were eliminated in the round one of the playoffs. In Game 5, much of the Isles success came from Anthony Beauvillier, who scored two goals. This marked his second two-goal performance. Currently, he is in a three-way tie in the league for most goals in the post-season with six. Moreover, with Beauvillier and a powerful defence and goaltender, the Islanders quickly dismantled the Caps, even with the addition of Nicklas Backstrom. While this game was a predicted Washington win, The New York Islanders vs Washington Capitals matchup presented a disciplined New York that powered through and shutout the 2018 Stanley Cup winners.
New York Islanders vs Washington Capitals Matchup Pushes Washington out of the Playoffs.
Young Offence Shines
In Game 3, it was Mathew Barzal’s time to shine. The 23-year-old clinched the win with a goal almost five minutes into overtime. Throughout the course of the playoffs, he has performed extremely well, scoring three goals over the course of the five games. However, it was his overtime goal that will define him during this series. Barzal cheated the line and Jordan Eberle passed him the puck. Braden Holtby prepared for Barzal by coming across the crease, but the young centre sunk the goal with a deke.
While Barzal continued to shine throughout the remainder of the series, Beauvillier and his line were unstoppable in Game 5. The Islanders built a 2-0 lead due to Beauvillier’s goals in the first two periods. One of these goals was the first New York power play goal since Game 2. Before Beauvillier’s goal, the Islanders possessed the second-worst efficiency on the man advantage at 5.3 percent. In the first four games, New York had a single power play goal in 19 attempts.
The Isles struggled on power play goals throughout the entire series, and this goal was a good reminder that they are capable of scoring on a power play. However, if the Islanders want to make it to round three of the playoffs, they will need to start scoring more on the power play. Game 5 was a more effective Islanders squad — scoring its first goal on a power play in three games and tallying its fewest penalties of the season. This might be a precursor of a more disciplined Islanders that will score more in upcoming games, but that has yet to be seen.
Inconsistency from Ovechkin
This was supposed to be Alex Ovechkin’s series. Washington’s captain was on track for yet another 50-goal season before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When he returned to the ice for the Eastern Conference round robin, his play could not compare to how he performed earlier in the season. Ovechkin looked sleepy and did not take many chances, and those he did often never came to fruition.
Coming into round one, it was still unknown how he would compete. The five games of this series brought out an inconsistent Ovechkin that had not been seen from the 34-year-old.
Game 2 saw Ovechkin miss a power play opportunity caused by a mistake from goaltender Braden Holtby. Holtby passed the puck to Ovechkin without noticing Brock Nelson giving him heat off the forecheck. Nelson swiped the puck and fed it to Josh Bailey. In speaking about the poorly executed power play attempt, Ovechkin simply responded “Shit happens.” Game 3 was a similar story as the Islanders held Ovechkin to just a single shot, which was unsuccessful.
This is not to say that Ovechkin had a bad performance throughout the series because he didn’t. However, the lack of stability from him was out of the norm. The Islanders blanked Ovechkin in three of the five games. For a player of his caliber, this should not be the case. Perhaps it was the lack of Backstrom and the overall lack of depth from the Capitals, but Ovechkin — especially in the earlier games — was unable to make the matchups competitive.
With the possibility of a sweep looming, Ovechkin took control in Game 4 . He scored two goals, to rally back from a two-goal deficit and capture the win. This win marked only the third time in franchise history that the Caps overcame a multi-goal deficit to clinch the win in a series where they faced elimination.
Ovechkin’s first goal was the early go-ahead in the third period while his second was caused by a perfectly executed break up of a 3-on-2 break from Nick Jensen. After his performance in Game 4, Ovechkin now sits at No. 18 in NHL history in postseason goals.
Alex Ovechkin gets a second goal for the @Capitals to move past Gordie Howe and Sidney Crosby (both w/ 68) for sole possession of 18th place on the League’s all-time list. #NHLStats #StanleyCup https://t.co/GzJZ2M12zL
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) August 19, 2020
New York Defensive Dominance
Barry Trotz’s strategy for the Islanders has centered around creating a suffocating defence. This could not have been any clearer than in the this series against the Washington Capitals. New York’s defence held Ovechkin to no goals for three games. In addition, they took advantage of the lack of depth on Washington’s offence, preventing the more inexperienced players from scoring. Only Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie scored for Washington throughout the series. Moreover, Ovechkin scored all three of the Caps 5-on-5 goals.
The Capitals were able to move closer to the net and Semyon Varlamov, but increasingly managed less and less high-danger opportunities. Throughout the course of the game, the Islanders pushed the Caps farther and farther away from Varlamov. New York played a lot of dump and chase, causing the Capitals to skate practically the entire length of the rink in order to set up a shot.
When Washington was able to create chances, the Islanders’ continued pressure on forecheck shut them down before even reaching Varlamov. The Isles blocked 31 shots, leaving the Capitals with only 21 shots on goal. Varlamov impressively ranks third in the NHL now in 5-on-5 save percentage during the playoffs at .963 percent.
What was once expected by most to be a key chance for Washington to redeem itself after last season’s early exit saw the Isles trounce the Caps. Not even the return of Backstrom could not compete against an Islanders defence primed for greatness. A season that saw New York Islanders vs Washington Capitals games perfectly matched in terms of goals and wins has concluded with devastating losses for the Caps.
The Islanders will continue on to round two of the Stanley Cup playoffs. If the Philadelphia Flyers defeat the Montreal Canadiens, New York will face the Flyers. If Montreal overcomes its losses, the Isles will compete against the Boston Bruins. No matter who New York plays, it is obvious that they are hungry for the Stanley Cup and their opponents should prepare for an Islanders at the top of their game.