By Bill Sands
Fresh off a thrilling 3-2 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night, the Washington Capitals are turning their sights to Thursday and Friday night, where they’ll match up against the New York Islanders. The teams face off in Brooklyn on Thursday at the Barclays Center before flying south to Washington for a rematch on Friday night.
Washington Captials: As impressive as the win against Winnipeg was, most of the press went to Alex Ovechkin, who hit yet another major milestone with his 600th NHL goal. Ovechkin becomes the fourth-fastest player in NHL history to accomplish the feat, trailing only Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky. Ovechkin had two markers on the night to raise his season total to 42.
The win was the second in a row for the Caps, who have put together impressive back-to-back performances for the first time in a long time. Washington – which sits dead last in the NHL for average shots per game – outshot the Jets 43-28 and carried the play for most of the night. Philipp Grubauer had another solid showing between the pipes, once again getting the start over Braden Holtby.
Given that Washington plays two games in as many nights, it’s likely that we’ll see Holtby back in action for one game against the Islanders – probably the home contest on Friday. Holtby’s struggles have been documented, and a division match-up is a great chance for him to have a bounce-back win and restore some of his confidence.
New York Islanders: After a promising start to the year, the Islanders have endured a rough 2018. The team entered the calendar year in the thick of the playoff hunt, but poor defensive play has dropped them from the race. New York just ended a brutal eight-game losing streak and sits eight points behind the New Jersey Devils for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Injuries have taken their toll, but the roster didn’t have much of a chance to begin with. A potent offense led by John Tavares and rookie Matt Barzal hasn’t been enough to cover up for deficiencies on the back end. Defense has been a problem all year, and Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss have been abysmal in goal.
Losing a pair of division games would pretty much close the door on the Islanders’ playoff chances, so the Caps can expect two hard-hitting and intense games against a desperate opponent. Washington has climbed back into first in the Metro Division, and this weekend represents a great opportunity to get four quick points in the standings.