Our resident NHL handicapping professional breaks down the odds for the upcoming playoff series between the NY Islanders and Washington Capitals.
Metropolitan Division First Round Playoff Clash
The New York Islanders and the Washington Capitals will meet in an Eastern Conference Quarerfinal Playoff series set to begin on Wednesday. The first two games will be at the Verizon Center in Washington, the series will then shift to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York for games three and four. According to the NHL odds at Bookmaker, Washington is a -150 money line favorite to win the series, and the Islanders are +120.
Regular Season Meetings and Home Ice Advantage
These teams split their four games played against each other this season, and the home team won on each occasion. The Islanders squandered a golden opportunity to attain home ice in this series, blowing a two goal third period lead during a 5-4 home overtime shootout loss to Columbus in their regular season finale. It was a gut wrenching way to end the regular season, especially since the New York Rangers knocked off Washington earlier in the day despite having nothing to play for. Based on that result, all the Islanders needed was a win versus a Columbus team which had been eliminated from playoff contention well in advance of Saturday’s game.
Islanders need to recapture Momentum
The Islanders otherwise terrific regular season ended on a sour note, not only due to the previously mentioned loss to Columbus, but they went a dismal 4-10 in their final fourteen games. On a more positive note, not having home ice advantage isn’t the end of the world. The Islanders went a very go 25-16 on the road this season. The Isles also were a superb 21-9 versus Metropolitan Division opponents, and they averaged 3.1 goals per game which was fourth best in the NHL.
Capital Keys to Win
In what will likely be a long playoff series versus the Islanders, let’s take a look at a couple of my key aspects that need to go right in order for the Capitals to win.
*Alex Ovechkin has to play like a star. Ovechkin led the NHL with 53-goals this season, and finished fourth in scoring with 81-points. It’s imperative that he be a force in this series if the Capitals hope to advance. He’s had a history of underachieving in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
*Based on regular season statistics, the Capitals should have a decided advantage in this series regarding special teams play. They finished first in the NHL on the power play, converting on 25.3% of their man advantage opportunities, and were also 14th in the penalty killing category. Without confusing you with intricate mathematical calculations, Washington had a special teams efficiency rating of 106.3 compared to 96.6 for the Islanders on my own personal charts. That +9.7 advantage, and I consider that to be a wide disparity, and especially when evaluating a playoff series.
*The Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby must be on top of his game in this series. Holtby performed very well during the regular season, but his seventy-two starts are a bit concerning to me. That’s an awful lot of wear and tear on a goaltender heading into the playoffs, and is highly unusual in this modern era of the NHL.
This has all the ear marks of a playoff series that will go the full seven games, and quite frankly could go either way. In a really tough call, I’m going to rely on my professional intuition, and have a small lean on the Islanders to advance for one of my NHL picks.
NHL Picks: Play on the Islanders +135 at 5Dimes