3 Islanders Takeaways From Win vs. Capitals – 4/28/22

The New York Islanders faced the Washington Capitals for the second game of a home and home series and the result echoed the 4-1 victory from Tuesday night. The Islanders scored two goals in the first period and never looked back, defeating the Capitals 5-1 in the final game of the season series with another dominant performance against their Metropolitan Division rival.

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The Islanders had already been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a 37-34-10 record. Conversely, the Capitals are looking ahead to the playoffs and with Alexander Ovechkin out of the lineup, didn’t put their best performance together. However, the recent win was once again a reminder of what this team is capable of and what they could have accomplished this season with a healthy roster, providing optimism with only one game left in the 2021-22 season.

Barzal’s Playmaking

Mathew Barzal distributed three assists in the five-goal game for the Islanders with two great passes on the power-play in the first period. He has struggled this season both on his forward shift and on the power play and one of the reoccurring issues was the young forward’s tendency to hold on to the puck instead of finding open skaters near the net or shooting the puck on the goal. Early on in the game against the Capitals, the Islanders’ most talented skater proved that he will continue to create offense and be a valuable forward to build around.

Mathew Barzal New York Islanders
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Brock Nelson, who missed the previous game, found an open shot near the net with an elevated cross-ice pass that notably cleared the Capitals’ defensemen from Barzal for the Islanders’ first goal. Moreover, the third and final assist also displayed Barzal’s ability to play a complete game, forcing a turnover in the offensive zone and immediately finding an open Josh Bailey for the team’s fifth goal of the game. The 24-year-old forward has struggled in a new role this season but the recent game was a reminder of his talent and ability to elevate the offense which should help the Islanders rebound next season.

Islanders’ Power Play Steps Up

For the second game in a row, the special teams played a major role in the Islanders’ success. After scoring two goals on the power play and one shorthanded goal in the 4-1 win the Islanders once again stepped up on the man advantage and the penalty kill. The team scored its first two goals on the power play and three of the five goals in the game came with the extra skater on the ice.

The first two power-play goals were scored by the Islanders’ two best goal scorers this season with Nelson scoring his 37th goal of the season and Anders Lee scoring his 28th. Both skaters know where to find open shots and take advantage of opposing goaltenders with Nelson waiting for a Barzal pass in the face-off circle while Lee found the back of the net with a quick shot from the slot.

Brock Nelson New York Islanders
Brock Nelson, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The power play also, for the second game in a row, showcased the talented defensemen the Islanders possess. Noah Dobson is having a breakout season, as the young defenseman has established himself as a playmaker from the blue line. He distributed two assists from the point on the power play, allowing him to reach the 50-point mark for the season, with 13 goals and 37 assists.

Varlamov’s Big Night

Semyon Varlamov made his final start of the season against the team that drafted him. It’s been a difficult and unusual year for him, as he missed the start of the season with an injury and started only 29 games as Ilya Sorokin emerged as one of the elite young goaltenders in the NHL. It’s unclear what the future will look like for the 34-year-old on the Islanders’ roster, but against the Capitals, the veteran goaltender put together one of his best performances of the season.

Semyon Varlamov New York Islanders
Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Varlamov made 26 saves and held a shutout until the final minute of the game when the Capitals finally found the back of the net. It was another performance where he looked focused in the net and covered up the Capitals’ shots, preventing second-chance opportunities. In his final start of the season, he proved why he is a valuable goaltender who could be the primary starter for the Islanders and many teams around the NHL in 2022-23, as he finished 2021-22 with a .911 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.91 goals-against average (GAA) on 978 shots.

Other Notes From Islanders Win

With Ryan Pulock out of the lineup, the Islanders had to call up 23-year-old defenseman Robin Salo for the game, joining Sebastian Aho who was already filling in for the injured Scott Mayfield. The two young defensemen struggled in the defensive zone, but Salo notably stepped up as a strong skating defenseman. Moreover, the 23-year-old proved he can effectively handle the puck, and playing the point on the power play, distributed an assist on Kyle Palmieri’s goal.

The Islanders conclude the regular season on Friday night at UBS Arena against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Like the Capitals, the Lightning have already secured their spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, the Islanders are looking to end the season on a high note and will face a tough test in their final game of the season.

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