Of late, the Washington Capitals look like their former selves — the ones that show urgency and determination to win. Now, they have the chance to capture their fifth straight win Monday against the New York Islanders.
After an impressive 3-0 shutout win against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday, Washington is showing signs of offensive push and excellent backchecking, two factors that earned them the President’s Trophy just a season ago.
Washington Capitals at New York Islanders
Barclays Center – 7 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – CSNMA, MSG+
2016-17 Season Series:
Oct. 15- Capitals 2 Islanders 1
Dec. 1- Islanders 3 Capitals 0
Washington Capitals – 17-7-3, 37 Points
Away Record: 6-6-3
Hot Players: Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams
Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky-Lars Eller-Jakub Vrana
Daniel Winnik-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner-John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov- Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-Nate Schmidt
New York Islanders – 11-11-5, 27 Points
Home Record: 9-4-4
Hot Players: John Tavares, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey
Key Injuries: Mikhail Grabovski, Adam Pelech
Josh Bailey-John Tavares-Brock Nelson
Andrew Ladd-Anthony Beauvillier-Shane Prince
Anders Lee-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck
Nikolay Kulemin-Ryan Strome-Jason Chimera
Nick Leddy-Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey-Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan-Dennis Seidenberg
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap]Washington’s offense has been flourishing throughout the past few games. Nicklas Backstrom is riding a three-game point streak, and Evgeny Kuznetsov is modestly on a four-game point streak. Marcus Johansson has six points in his last five games as well. With these players performing at their top level, expect Washington to get a lot more pucks on net.
Pregame notes on Kuznetsov and no morning skate in Brooklyn: https://t.co/dlkEaPQ5Gc
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) December 13, 2016
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap]Washington’s special teams have been improving over the course of the last few games. The power-play has been getting better, and the Capitals have three PPGs in their last two games. However, they still struggle to make the most of all of their chances. One area where they’re starting to excel is on the penalty kill; against Vancouver Sunday, Washington killed off all five penalties and didn’t allow much offense. The Capitals should not have any problem stopping the Islanders because they sport the worst power-play in the NHL (13 percent success), but they’ll have to get through their impressive defensive corps.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3) [/miptheme_dropcap]Alex Ovechkin broke a seven-game goalless drought Sunday for his 13th goal of the season, but is still showing signs of slowing down. Monday is the perfect opportunity for Russian winger to find his touch, considering he has 32 goals and 47 points in 43 career games against the Islanders.
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 12, 2016
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap]Braden Holtby was perfect in Washington’s blanking of Vancouver, and it is a no-brainer that he would get the start Tuesday. Over his last four games, Holtby has stopped 114 of 120 shots, and he has great numbers against the New York Islanders in his career (11-2-3, 2.19 GAA, .928 save percentage).
The Eastern Conference standings are getting tighter each day, and the Capitals need to continue winning just to simply hang on. They can tie the Philadelphia Flyers for third in the Metropolitan Division, but given the Flyers recent winning streak, it’s uncertain how long that tie would last.
Thankfully, the Capitals are playing with more urgency going forward, which was something they weren’t doing to start the season. Now, Washington’s will to win will power them to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, or at least help them hold onto their #6 seed in the east.
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.