Islanders Gameday: Talking yourself into a win vs. the Capitals

I'd like to sit here and divine possible ways the Islanders could steal a win over the visiting Capitals, but it's simply not happening unless the Caps turn in the worst performance of their thus far uneven start (uneven by their recently lofty standards, of course).

Caps-pital_medium                    Blade-square_medium
Washington Capitals (5-2-2, 1st/SE) at New York Islanders (1-4-3, 5th/Atl)
7 p.m. EDT | Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum | MSG+, radio

It's not that I don't have hope for the Islanders on their good days; This team has some guys who truly excite me. It's that for the Islanders to win thus far in the Snow/Gordon Rebuild, they need an opponent's flaws exposed; and the Capitals' flaws (essentially: We're so good we're kind of on autopilot right now) do not match up well with the Isles' method of exposing them.

Gordon's squad -- or Snow's roster -- is most vulnerable to teams that possess high-end talents who can individually take over games. The Islanders can get a strictly system-dependent team off its game, but their defense doesn't appear capable of shutting down the league's most dangerous players. So two bad periods from such opponents doesn't cut it; the truly elite players are able to turn it on in the third or OT, as we learned in last year's Caps matchups. (You may now accuse me of taking three too many sentences to say, "Bad teams lose to teams with really good players.")

So even if the Islanders are able to keep it a game heading into the third -- as they've done a few times this season -- the need for a team with aspirations like the Capitals to take both points from a team with exasperations like the Isles will likely be too much to keep Alex Ovechkin from doing something otherworldly. And if somehow that doesn't happen ... well then there's the shootout, which also requires perfection from the Islanders snipers -- we do have those, at least -- to cover for Dwayne Roloson's weakness thus far, as well as uncommon failure from the snipers who theoretically represent our fair republic's district of taxation without representation.

But hey, any team can win on any night in this league. Staged fights and mythology aside, that's one thing that sets our sport apart from steroid-laden men in tights (the ones who don't wear uniform numbers). So I'll dream up a scenario:

  • The Capitals' powerplay has struggled, going 0-for-7 against Atlanta this week. Counterpoint: the Islanders' penalty kill, after being the last in the league to concede a goal in 2009-10, has now fallen to 17th, at 77.4%. Also: The Caps should be motivated to correct things and last year they feasted on the Islanders PK, scoring on 7 of 15 chances.
  • The Capitals are a little banged up, with Jose Theodore's back necessitating continued appearances for still-rookie Semyon Varlamov, who's had a winning-yet-uninspiring start so far. That prompted a most doubly un-sabermetric quote from coach Bruce Boudreau about Cy Young winners with high win totals to cover high ERAs. Like a Selke winner with some shorthanded goals to cover his low plus/minus.
  • The Caps won all four last year. (Wait ... that doesn't really help, does it?) Let's try this: While the Caps won all four last year, the Islanders took two loser points. Or: The Isles also lost all four to Carolina last year yet "won" the first meeting with the Canes this season, so hey! There's a five-second TV soundbite about "facing the Southeast Division" in there somewhere, a group related only by schedule and geography.
  • The Islanders played so embarrassingly awful in Montreal, they're destined for at least a very strong showing, a statement of intent tonight, no?

I do hope I've convinced you of a possible win. No? Let me try this: I've been a bit of a reverse jinxer lately. When I wrote with optimism on the prospect of a loose, no-pressure game in Montreal, the Isles turned in their ugliest performance of the year. When I talked with dread about the Canes' 4-0 record over the Isles last year, they duly handed the Islanders their first shootout-aided "win." And the reverse-jinx opus: When I compared hearing of the Rangers win streak to hearing I was 1,000 miles away from my wife and her three lovely friends in their skivvies in our hot tub, the Rangers promptly lost two in a row. So maybe the pessimistic talk at the beginning of this preview is just what the hockey gods ordered.*

*Note to hockey gods: I realize, from the last 16 years of data you have so mercifully bestowed upon Islanders fans, that you don't exactly take requests. And mentioning all this jinxing to curry favor is not exactly how you roll. Nonetheless, I was hoping you might go easy on me, seeing as I've been through a lot -- and Thursday, heh, well that was one show of your force. I mean, talk about waiting in joyful hope, you sure know how to test hope.

But also: Not to be a begging chooser here, but do you think you could give me that win in regulation? "My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax...{snip} Oh you've already got the two points made out? That's great."

Since this preview was composed scratched out last night under the influence of some sort of fish paralyzer, it is notably devoid of late-breaking updates. Perhaps those appear later today. Otherwise, expect Roloson in goal, and spend your Saturday wondering whether Doug Weight has overcome illness, whether Jeff Tambellini gets another appearance, whether Rob Schremp Hockey (TM) goes from 7 minutes to healthy scratch, and whether Jon Sim or Bruno Gervais reappears. You might also find that stuff here (enjoy the last pre-paywall days!), here or here.

Update: Weight still out, as are Schremp and Freddy Meyer The Fourth. Bruno gets back in with Sim.

A solid crowd is expected tonight, so make it loud and Let's.Go.Is-land-ers.* Meanwhile, your reasons for optimism against Ovechkin & Co. are welcome in comments. Obviously on such matters of faith, showing your work is not required.

*Hockey gods willing and the creek don't rise

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