In last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Islanders won the first two games at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round and went on to complete a four-game sweep. In round two, they fell behind two games to none and wound up getting swept by the Carolina Hurricanes. Fast forward to this year’s Qualifying Round in Toronto and the Isles jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Florida Panthers on their way to winning the best of five series three games to one.
And now the Islanders have beaten the Washington Capitals in the first two games of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and they take that 2-0 series lead into game three on Sunday in a noon start at Scotiabank Arena. Over the last two years, the Islanders know what it’s like in a 2-0 series from both ends of the spectrum.
“It’s experience,” said Islanders Captain Anders Lee. “I think every game in a series the intensity just gets that much more ramped up and becomes that much more tighter of a game. I think each team is trying to either gain momentum or keep it.”
In this series, the Islanders have used strong third periods to wear down the Capitals and they’ve been able to frustrate and suffocate Washington regardless of how the Caps have chosen to play. The Islanders didn’t get off to great starts in either game, but they managed to stay true to their identity and found ways to come out victorious on both occasions.
The Capitals had the Islanders on the ropes in game one with a 2-0 second period lead and then in game two, Alex Ovechkin scored the first of his two goals less than a minute into the game. The Islanders led 3-2 in the third and were able to kill off a pair of Capitals power plays and then they shut Washington down the rest of the way including an incredible three minute stretch keeping the puck in the Capitals zone before Cal Clutterbuck scored to give the Isles a two-goal cushion.
“They’re obviously a good team and they’ve had their pressures in the first two games,” said Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to our game plan and being disciplined within that and weathering their pressure and getting some timely goals.”
Series Schedule (Islanders lead 2-0)
Game 1: Wednesday August 20th…Islanders 4 Capitals 2
Game 2: Friday August 14th…Islanders 5 Capitals 2
Game 3: Sunday August 16th…Capitals at Islanders…Noon
Game 4: Tuesday August 18th…Capitals at Islanders…8pm
Game 5: Thursday August 20th…Islanders at Capitals…TBD (If necessary)
Game 6: Saturday August 22nd…Capitals at Islanders…TBD (If necessary)
Game 7: Sunday August 23rd…Islanders at Capitals…TBD (If necessary)
The Islanders might have the 2-0 series lead, but they certainly know that just two seasons ago the Capitals trailed the Columbus Blue Jackets two games to none in the opening round of the playoffs only to come back and win their series on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.
Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz was behind the Capitals bench that season before coming to Long Island and he has brought the same mentality for a 2-0 series to his current club.
“We’ve taken a one game at a time approach,” said Trotz. “Our players are well aware of that journey (in 2018). I’ve talked to many of them about…you have to stay in the fight type of thing. We’ll brush on it but I’m going to focus on us. That’s what we came here to do is to focus on how we play so that’s going to be the main focus.”
In their last four playoff series, the Islanders have either been up two games to none or down two games to none so they certainly have experience in what a pivotal game three of a best of seven series is all about. Now while it’s true that the Islanders have a 2-0 lead on the Capitals without playing a complete sixty minutes in either game, the Isles are not about to take their accomplishments thus far for granted.
They know Washington is going to bring it in game three and they’ll have to respond with some more “Capital Punishment”.
“We’ve put a couple of pretty good games together but we can’t sit back and rest on our laurels against this team,” said Lee. “It’s an experienced group over there that has been through a lot and overcome a lot clearly to have won it a couple of years ago. We gotta be really primed and ready to go for game three. It’s not to get any easier from here on out.”
Especially against a Capitals team that is loaded with talent and veteran leadership. The Islanders have worked hard for a 2-0 series lead, but this is a series that is far from over. Barry Trotz has extremely intimate knowledge of that because he’s all too familiar with the opponent. The Islanders also know first hand what a 2-0 series is all about and that they can put a stranglehold on the Capitals with a fast start in game three.