The New York Islanders really needed to win tonight’s game. But they couldn’t even be bothered to show up. Or worse yet, they’re not nearly as good a team as we thought.
The Washington Capitals completed the three-game series sweep in dominating fashion. Though the score was only 1–0, it probably should have been at least 3–0. The Islanders scored only three goals the entire series and in only one game, none at even strength, getting shutout twice in the process.
This was billed as the biggest series or stretch of games of the season—a potentially season-defining series—and they produced a double-flusher over three games. It would be a real shame if this turned out to be the season-defining series.
Frankly, they have had no answers as the top teams in this division have rounded into form and only look to be getting worse each night.
Oliver Wahlstrom re-entered the lineup at RW3, but it was LW2 Michael Dal Colle that exited it. So that meant some line shuffling—in fact, only the fourth line remained untouched. And Braydon Coburn did, indeed, take the place of Noah Dobson on the third pair (though it looked like Andy Greene that slid to his off-side).
On the other side of the ice, Alex Ovechkin remained out and Vitek Vanecek nabbed the crease.
Capitals lines vs NYI:— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) April 27, 2021
Vanecek (vs Sorokin)
First Period: Well, Someone Felt Fresh This Evening
The game got off to a rough start. The first puck that ended up in the Isles’ zone also ended up in the Isles’ net. In a battle in the corner, Mathew Barzal tried to sneak away with the puck but forgot it. Daniel Sprong, who scored twice in his return to Washington’s lineup Saturday, picked it up and was able to walk right in on Sorokin to roof it over him point-blank.
The goal by Sprong and the applause from the home crowd—the first time that the Capitals played in front of them this season—juiced up Washington and they had the game’s first five shots-on-goal. The Islanders started to turn their play around as the period wore on, but only barely so, and it was still disjointed.
With two minutes left in the frame, Ryan Pulock was whistled for tripping. Without one of their top penalty-killing defenseman unavailable, Coburn came in and then tripped Tom Wilson.
The Capitals had 1:16 of five-on-three time almost to finish the period, but Scott Mayfield battled, blocked some shots, and simultaneously interfered with and cross-checked Wilson to help the Islanders escape without conceding a goal on the five-on-three.
Second Period: No Answer for Washington
The second period began with the Isles killing off the last 45 seconds of Coburn’s penalty. Wilson off the rush flung the puck at Sorokin, who left a juicy rebound, but the Isles cleared it out of the way.
Chasing the puck into the left corner behind Vanecek, Matt Martin crushed Michael Raffl into the boards. Raffl was bent over and, though unpenalized, Martin drove his head into the ledge, to which Zdeno Chara took exception. The two fought for the second time this season; advantage: Chara.
The Isles looked pretty sloppy in their own zone and did not spend much time in Washington’s end. At one point, even the normally unflappable Adam Pelech put a pass right on a Washington stick for a two-on-one, but Sorokin stopped Wilson.
One of the only chances, really, that the Islanders even had was when Evgeny Kuznetsov got tangled up with Nelson in the neutral zone and Palmieri crashed into them, putting his knee into Kuznetsov’s neck; Zajac, wide-open in front of the net, was denied by Vanecek. Another chance came when Barzal fed Josh Bailey in the slot, but Vanecek again made a big save.
The Islanders spent probably fifteen of the period’s twenty minutes, sometimes spending well over a minute at a time in there. They ended the period on a power-play thanks to a pretty generous call against Sprong for hooking Casey Cizikas. Save for a point shot off the initial draw, though, the Islanders did not have much going on the first three-quarters of the man advantage.
Third Period: Just Pathetic, Man
The Islanders’ last quarter of a power-play dissipated without much threat. Other than that, the Capitals almost completely shut down the Islanders in the third period, who had only two shots through the first half of the period. Anthony Mantha managed to escape on a breakaway but Sorokin made the save.
The Isles received a power play when Kuznetsov slashed Eberle. They had some decent looks and actually shot the puck, but I think got only one shot-on-goal, and the power play expired.
Later, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Wilson got under each other’s skins and received two minutes each for roughing. During the ensuing four-on-four, Mantha went off for hooking Nick Leddy, giving the Islanders a four-on-three. They spent too long passing and standing still trying to give Wahlstrom some space and, during the five-on-four portion, could not penetrate the Capitals’ defense.
They pulled Sorokin under two minutes but did a whole lot of nothing with it and the game mercilessly ended.
Notes, Thoughts, and Rage
- Almost nothing is working for the Islanders right now. Not the lineups, not the line combinations, not the players. The only bright spot has been the penalty kill and, last game notwithstanding, the goaltending. (Sorokin, at least, recovered from an ugly showing on Saturday.) They were dummied in all three zones for the final eight nine regulation periods of this series with Washington and scored no goals at even strength.
- They cannot score for shit. They look lost. They look like they have forgotten how to play hockey. And during the timeout with five seconds left, they looked dejected. Call me a doomer or whatever you want, but they took one point from this series and got shut out twice. The Capitals deserved the sweep and six points they took; they look playoff-ready. The only time the Islanders looked playoff-ready was last Tuesday. Now, they look like first-round sweep bait.
- I have been trying to remain optimistic about this team, and I do not think that they will miss the playoffs at this point. But with each seemingly lackluster effort, I am losing faith in this team to go on a long playoff run, or even win a playoff game. Maybe it’s not effort. Maybe it’s talent. Maybe it’s bad luck. Maybe it’s coaching or some combination of all of it. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it has been tough to feel good about this team of late.
- I do know that it looks like every top team in the division figured out how to play them, though: rush the puck and cover every guy that looks like he could be a passing option. Maybe the Isles were only able to control games because other teams spent too much time standing still. It looks like every other team has figured out that if you keep moving and clog the neutral zone, you can take the Isles completely off their game. And given that the other teams in the division all have more forward talent, that may be all that the other teams need.
- The only thing giving me any hope right now is that the playoffs are an entirely new season and teams, including the Islanders, have been known to flip a switch from the adrenaline of Game 1. Not really what you want to hang your hat on—ideally, you’d want to see them gain a head of steam coming into the playoffs—but it’s all we’ve got right now. Honestly, I’m fuming.
The Islanders make their final trip to Madison Square Garden on Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. ET to take on the New York Rangers in the penultimate game of the season series, which concludes Saturday night back at the Coliseum. Maybe they’ll figure out how to play hockey again.