Tonight, the New York Islanders open their first round playoff series against the Washington Capitals. This is the Islanders second time in the playoffs in the last three seasons as they attempt to win a playoff series for the first time since the 1992/1993 season. If the Islanders hope to win the series, these are some keys they should look to accomplish.
This could be the biggest key of the series as Alex Ovechkin has had an MVP caliber season and is capable of taking the series over. He is of course most effective on the power play from the spot on the hash marks with his unbelievable one timer. If the Islanders are able to control him and make the Capitals rely on other players for a bulk of their offense, that will go a long way in helping themselves to victory.
Time For Boychuk/Leddy To Shine
When the Islanders acquired Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk on October 4th, one thing that was repeatedly mentioned about both of them was the huge amount of playoff experience they had. With the Capitals offensive fire power, they will surely have their hands full in this series. Additionally, with the loss of Travis Hamonic for an unknown amount of time, that adds to the pressure they will face. I would look for these two, Boychuk especially to be front and center in this series.
One of the biggest differences between this Islander team and the one that played Pittsburgh two years ago is Jaroslav Halak. Halaks consistency has been something the Islanders haven’t had in net in a very long time. Nabokovs poor performance in that series really came back to haunt the Islanders as they didn’t have a quality backup like the Penguins did. In Halak, the Islanders have a goalie that while small has a pretty impressive playoff resume. His presence will be huge for the Islanders in this series.
If Halak isn’t the Islanders biggest key in this series, then it is their captain John Tavares. Much like Ovechkin, Tavares is capable of taking this series over. He has grown into one of the top players in the NHL right before our eyes much like Ovechkin has in the last decade in front of Washington fans. After having a big playoff series two years ago, and setting a career high in points this season with 86, Tavares seems to be poised for a big performance this spring.
The Islanders and Capitals have played many incredible games over the years and I sense that this series will be no different. While being counted out by almost all people, I think the Islanders have a very good shot in this series to do what they haven’t done since 1993. They always play the Capitals tough and that is evident by how close each game this season was between these teams and how many of them needed extra time to decide.