November 29, 2014

Caps end Isles Latest Win Streak at Five

The Washington Capitals learned from some of the mistakes they made on Wednesday night, and stopped the Islanders latest winning streak at five games on their way to a 5-2 victory on Friday night.

The Capitals got plenty of help from Islanders back-up goalie Chad Johnson, who looked shaky on some attempts but did keep his movements down from other games. To be honest, he did make several nice saves on some tough shots. But the goals that were given up were not ones to go on anyone's greatest hits album.

Two of the goals came from far out, with just a lone defender screening Johnson and playing close to the puck handler. These are saves that Jaroslav Halak has proved more than capable of stopping and you'd like to think most goaltenders in the NHL could stop in a very common situation. But Johnson had issues even with just the one defender standing between him and the puck and it didn't make anything easier for the Isles. The powerplay goal was a tough one, and the goal that Alex Ovechkin scored was just a nasty shot in traffic - despite being to the far side. But I thought that two of these goals were very stoppable.

The Islanders were clearly the better team early on and started off with some great rushes that caused Barry Trotz to quickly burn one of his time outs. Washington did wake up a little after that but still seemed to have issues with getting anything going. And the Islanders had trouble jumping on a team that looked like it was having thoughts of Wednesday's match-up creeping into their minds.

Despite some of the early chances the Isles could not capitalize, and it allowed Washington to grab the momentum after scoring on the powerplay. They didn't even get their first official chances in on Johnson until midway through the first and it didn't take long before they had the 2-0 lead.

They often say the two goal lead is the worst in hockey, and as usual a team that had one blew it. John Tavares and Anders Lee scored just over a minute apart from one another to get the game even going into the intermission.

As the games have gone on here, we are seeing Lee getting more and more involved. The puck pretty much just bounced off of him to tie the game at two, but the Isles have had trouble getting bodies to the net. He's been doing it with some more consistency and you saw the benefits here on this play.

With the team playing in more tight checking games these days you saw some of the same plays from the overtime win in the previous game, complete with too many attempted fancy passes and some hesitancy on whether or not to shoot the puck. These hesitations have allowed Washington defenders to drape a puck carrier and force turnovers. Washington also did an excellent job in keeping the Isles to the outside and towards the blueline as they didn't really use their chip-and-chase method as much as you would like to see against a Capitals team constructed in the manner they are.

Overall it was not a poorly played game for the Islanders, and they earned a split against a division rival only allowing them to gain one point in total in the series. It's been a while where we could just look at a loss for what it is, shrug it off and just prepare for the next game, but that's really the mindset this team has to be in. There will be others like this, and no team is going to win 70 games in a season.

So now you look to a Devils team that is still as defensively sound as ever, and lately has been finding ways to put pucks into the net. The Islanders need to figure out how to get past their injury issues too.

As reported by Art Staple, Lubomir Visnovsky and Johnny Boychuk will be out. Travis Hamonic will play after getting hurt on Friday night, while Matt Donovan draws into the line-up for Visnovsky.

With the Islanders trying to make a comeback on Friday night and Visnovsky unavailable for the 3rd period, you knew it was going to be hard given the way he's played of late. And once Hamonic got banged up things only got tougher. They'll have to figure out a work around for how to get past a good defensive team in the Devils, and that answer should be the chip-and-chase game. I liked what I saw from Matt Donovan in the last game he played, but the Islanders have to try and keep the puck away from the Devils as much as possible, and generate scoring chances from down low rather than from the points with two of their big shots missing back there.

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- Chris

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