The New York Islanders are facing a familiar opponent in the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The last time the New York Islanders played the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Evgeny Kuznetsov sent the Isles home with a late third-period goal in Game 7.
So much has changed since that game in 2015. Barry Trotz is on the other bench now and the Isles are a completely different team. Mathew Barzal is the star for New York now that John Tavares tucked tail and signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Here are three keys to this Islanders-Capitals series.
Can Barry Trotz Crack His Old Team?
The Islanders are 4-4 against the Capitals since Trotz took over as head coach. The Capitals have the superstar talent in Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, but if anyone knows how to stop those guys, it’s Trotz.
Trotz’s former assistant, Todd Reirden, took over the Caps but wasn’t able to guide his squad past the first round of the playoffs last year. Trotz has the experience and knows this Washington roster up and down. The advantage here certainly seems to be in favor of Trotz and the Isles, but in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s always smart to expect the unexpected.
Who Has The Momentum?
The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs are going to be different than any year in history. For the first time ever, the NHL had to resort to Round Robin games and a Qualifying Round to decide on the final 16 teams. Such is life in 2020 with the novel coronavirus.
But this begs the question, who will have the upper hand coming into this traditional seven-game series? The Islanders were just playing for their lives in a short, five-game series against the Florida Panthers. Meanwhile, the Capitals were ramping up with seeding games against the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Against a younger, less experienced roster, the Isles might have the upper hand, but Ovechkin and the Caps know what it takes to lift the Cup. We should see early on if the Round Robin and Qualifying Round games have any carryover effect on this series.
Can Beauvillier Continue To Dominate?
Anthony Beauvillier was the best player on the ice in New York’s Qualifying Round series. Two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky looked like a deer in headlights against Beauvillier at times. Whenever the Islanders needed a boost, Beauvillier seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
The second line with Beauvillier actually outplayed the first line. But here’s the rub: If Beauvillier can continue to play well and that first line with Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle play up to their capabilities, the Islanders will have more than enough offense to win this series.
The third line is an opportunistic group that will hold its own on both ends of the ice. And we all know the fourth line is there for energy, physicality, and defense.
If Beauvillier is playing well and carrying that second line, the Isles will have enough offense to stand toe-to-toe with Washington’s top lines.