Why the Islanders’ chances rely solely on shutting down Ovechkin and Backstrom

Chicago Blackhawks v Washington Capitals

For the most part, the New York Islanders have done an outstanding job containing Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but even allowing the superstar duo a few moments of brilliance has been enough to leave the Islanders tied with the Capitals after four games.

While shutting down any superstar for an entire series is incredibly difficult, it might be the only chance the Islanders have. Because in Game 2, when the Capitals stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to steal a win, and Game 4, when Backstrom and Ovechkin were the only Capitals to find the back of the net in a 2-1 overtime victory, it’s been the Capitals’ two-headed monster that has kept this series even. Read more

Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom scores drifting OT winner to even series with New York Islanders

The Washington Capitals celebrate Nicklas Backstrom's OT winner (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

As the old adage goes, good things happen when you put the puck to the net. Capitals star center Nicklas Backstrom will be preaching that mantra after evening up Washington’s first-round series with a seemingly innocuous wristshot that found the back of the net.

Midway through the extra frame, after a faceoff victory by Backstrom, the Capitals pounced on the loose puck before it ended up back on Backstrom’s tape. After curling to the top of the New York zone, Backstrom opened his body towards the Islanders goal and simply floated a shot towards the net that somehow found its way past Jaroslav Halak and lifted the Capitals to victory: Read more

Capitals bruiser Tom Wilson blasts Islanders’ Lubomir Visnovsky with massive hit

Tom Wilson (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The first-round series between the Capitals and Islanders features two of the biggest and most frequent hitters in the NHL in New York’s Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin. It’s Washington’s Tom Wilson, however, whose thrown the biggest hit of the series.

In the second period of Tuesday’s Game 4, Lubomir Visnovsky chased a loose puck into the right wing corner of New York’s zone when Wilson, who was flying into the zone with his eyes locked on Visnovsky, delivered a hit that literally lifted the Islanders blueliner off his feet: Read more

Prospect Hot List: Foley will keep Friars flying

Cedar Rapids winger Erik Foley (photo by Brandon Anderson/BA Photos)

While I try to reserve this space for players up for this year’s draft or ones who have already been picked, there’s a treasure trove of 2016s at the world under-18s right now. Auston Matthews just broke Patrick Kane’s U.S. NTDP scoring record, while Finland is getting a huge performance from Patrik Laine (Jesse Puljujarvi’s playing pretty well, too). And Dmitri Sokolov of Russia is already on the minds of NHL scouts. With that established, let’s take a look at some of the other great youngsters in the game today.

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Caps drop Game 3 to Isles, need more from players other than Alex Ovechkin & Braden Holtby

Adam Proteau
John Tavares celebrates his game-winning overtime goal against the Capitals in Game Three of their first-round series Sunday. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

After a strong showing against the New York Islanders in Game 2 of their first-round playoff showdown, the Washington Capitals were outplayed for the grand majority of Game 3 Sunday en route to losing 2-1 in overtime and falling behind two games to one in the series. And if they’re going to rebound and make it to the second round against the winner of the Rangers/Penguins series, the Caps are going to require significant step-ups from players not named Alexander Ovechkin and Braden Holtby.

Some might say the Caps performed admirably, outshooting the Islanders 12-7 in the third and getting a third-period goal from Nicklas Backstrom to force overtime, and that they lost on this relatively fluky goal by Isles captain John Tavares just 15 seconds into the extra frame: Read more

With thunderous checks and a big goal, Isles’ Kyle Okposo having huge impact in Game 3 vs. Caps

Kyle Okposo (Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

I said after the Islanders’ Game 1 win that the Capitals were in trouble if their opponents got production from core players other than Isles captain John Tavares – veteran winger Kyle Okposo being one of those players – and in Game 3 Sunday, Washington was getting knocked around, on the ice and the scoresheet, for exactly that reason.

Okposo in particular was a force to reckon with in Game 3: Late in the first period, he laid a thunderous hit on Caps’ winger Eric Fehr:

Fehr, who has a history of shoulder issues, was driven shoulder-first into the boards by Okposo and was forced out of the game by the hit. And Okposo wasn’t done after that. In the second period, he was robbed by Caps goalie Braden Holtby on a shot in close, but almost immediately tipped a shot past him for the game’s first goal: Read more

Capitals protect shaky Grubauer to even series with Islanders

Philipp Grubauer

A shaky goalie can sap a playoff team’s confidence in a hurry, or it can galvanize the rest of the squad to cover up their deficiencies and get the job done another way.

The latter was the case on Friday, as the Washington Capitals overcame a weak performance from last-minute starter Philipp Grubauer to beat the New York Islanders 4-3 and tie their series 1-1.

Grubauer was named the starter late Friday after the Caps ruled out Braden Holtby, who missed yesterday’s practice with an illness.

But the German did not get off to a good start, surrendering a soft goal to Cal Clutterbuck on just the Islanders’ second shot of the game.
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If Isles’ young guns continue stepping up as they did in Game 1 win, Caps are in trouble

The Islanders' Josh Bailey celebrates after scoring against Washington in the second period in Game One of their first round Eastern Conference playoff series. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

In the New York Islanders’ 4-1 Game 1 victory over Washington Wednesday, superstar center and Hart Trophy candidate John Tavares had just one assist. That could be interpreted by some as an ominous harbinger of what’s to come for them against the Capitals and throughout the rest of the post-season. But the opposite is true. The fact the Isles got big games from youngsters such as sophomore centers Brock Nelson (who had the first and last goal of the night) and Ryan Strome, and veteran wingers Josh Bailey (one goal and two points) and Kyle Okposo (one assist) means there’s less pressure on Tavares to shoulder the entire load. And that can only be good news for their playoff hopes this year. Read more