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2018-19 Metropolitan Division preview: New York Islanders


2018-19 Metropolitan Division preview: New York Islanders

The Capitals have won the Metropolitan Division three straight years. Can they defend their title? Here’s a preview of each team in the division for the 2018-19 season.

Today's team: New York Islanders

2017-18 Results: 35-37-10, 80 points, seventh in the division. Did not qualify for the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: F Valtteri Filppula, F Leo Komarov, F Jan Kovar, F Tom Kuhnhackl, F Matt Martin, F Chris Wagner, G Robin Lehner, head coach Barry Trotz

Notable departures: F John Tavares, D Calvin de Haan, G Jaroslav Halak, head coach Doug Weight

When they will play the Caps: Nov. 26 in Brooklyn, Jan. 18 in Washington, March 1 at Nassau Coliseum, April 6 in Washington

Offseason recap: The biggest story of the offseason across the league was Tavares’ decision to leave the Islanders for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Bringing in Lou Lamoriello as president of hockey operations and general manager and Trotz as head coach present a massive upgrade on Long Island from the mess that was Garth Snow and Weight, but it wasn’t enough to entice Tavares to stay.

To make matters worse, it seems as if there was no real plan for what the team was going to do if Tavares did in fact leave. Granted, replacing a player of Tavares' caliber is difficult, but re-signing Thomas Hickey for four years, trading for Martin and signing players like Filppula, Komarov and Kuhnhackl feels like Lamoriello is grasping at straws.

Plus, an abhorrent defense likely got worse with the loss of de Haan. The Islanders did not bolster their blue line at all and got only a minimal (at best) upgrade in net with Lehner.

It certainly looks as if the Islanders put all their energy into getting Tavares to re-sign and didn’t think too much about Plan B or how to improve other positions in which they are severely lacking.

Biggest strength: Offense

Yes, Tavares is gone, but he actually wasn’t the team’s leading scorer last season. Rookie Mathew Barzal was with 85 points, just edging out Tavares’ 84. Tavares also did not lead the team in goals. That honor went to Anders Lee whose 40 goals beat Tavares’ 37.

That’s not to suggest the Islanders won’t miss Tavares. The offense absolutely will take a step back without him, but the Islanders were tied for seventh in the NHL last season with 3.18 goals per game. Tavares may have been the Islanders’ best forward, he may have made his teammates better (Josh Bailey is not getting 71 points without Tavares), but New York was not nearly as dependent on him offensively as a team like New Jersey is with Taylor Hall.

Biggest weakness: Keeping the puck out of the net

New York allowed an NHL high 293 goals last season thanks to atrocious defense and goaltending and things do not look like they are going to be much better anytime soon.

It’s hard to see how the blue line gets better this season with zero additions and the loss of de Haan. In goal, New York added Lehner in free agency after he was not qualified by the Buffalo Sabres. Lehner and Halak had identical save percentages last season at .908. Even if Lehner proves to be an  upgrade in net, he will only be a minimal one even with Mitch Korn working with him.

2018-19 season outlook: Whenever a team loses its franchise player, it’s a blow, but the future may not be all that bad on Long Island. There’s no question the franchise is in better hands now with Lamoriello and Trotz, plus Barzal is the real deal. The team also had one of the better drafts of 2018.

For now, however, the outlook is bleak.

New York missed the playoffs last season because of their defense and their goaltending. Trotz and Korn will help improve those areas, but the defense returns the same personnel minus de Haan and Lehner could not even get a qualifying offer from Buffalo. Whatever improvement there is on the backend likely will be minimal.

And then there’s Tavares. Without him, the offense is going to take a step back. The rag-tag group of forwards Lamoriello brought in over the offseason don’t come close to replacing what Tavares brought to the lineup.

So to sum up, the offense lost its franchise player, the defense got worse and the goaltending may be just as bad if not worse than last season.

Trotz certainly has his work cut out for him.

2018-19 season prediction: The Islanders will finish dead last in the Metropolitan Division.

Other Metropolitan Division previews:

Carolina Hurricanes
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils

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Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

The Capitals may not be participating in Stadium Series this year, but the team is embracing outdoor hockey around Washington for spirited game day fun.

The Caps are hosting Rock The Rink skates at The Wharf, Penatgon Row, Rockville Town Square and The Avenue at White Marsh on select game days from January to March 2020. Fans attending these events can wear Capitals jerseys or gear to get either $5 off admission or free skate rentals.

The Wharf

Jan. 18 at 1 p.m., Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., and Feb 17. at 1 p.m.

Transit Pier will boast a Capitals-paneled ice rink with an ice resurfacer, trivia contests, giveaways, along with a DJ. The Capitals Campire will also boast Adirondack chairs around a fire to roast marshmallows for smores in front of a 14-foot jumbotron screen to watch the Capitals games. 

Pentagon Row

Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m.

These skates will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants. The Caps games will also be on at surrounding bars. 

The Avenue at White March

Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

This event will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants.

Rockville Town Square

Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m. and March 5 at 6 p.m.

In addition to the above fun, Rockville native and Capitals hockey ambassador Haley Skarupa will be there on Jan. 31. You can watch the Capitals game at local bars as well. 

Fans attending these events or using local outdoor rinks this season are encouraged to post about it on social media by tagging @capitals and using the hashtag #RockTheRink to enter themselves for a chance to win prizes.

Caps slept through the first 40 minutes, they did not give Holtby much help though he was bad in his own right and Vrana sure did show something with the game-winning goal.

As for no penalties...not so much.


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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

Down 4-1, the Capitals scored five goals in the third period for the incredible 6-4 comeback win over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick pulling him in a tie with Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals.

Here is how the Caps won.


Ovechkin was hot coming in with five goals in his past two games. He scored midway through the first period, getting a great pass in stride from Nicklas Backstrom to launch him behind the defense. Just as the defense closed in he fired a wrister past Semyon Varlamov to make it 1-0.

There is...pretty much nothing positive to say after that until the third period. There was a great 5-on-3 penalty kill, but it was essentially negated as they allowed a goal soon after. The Islanders built a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes and it looked all but over.

But after Carl Hagelin made it 4-2, Ovechkin pulled the Caps to within one, pulling the vintage back-to-front Ovechkin curl-and-drag before passing to the front where the puck deflected off the boot of Ryan Pulock and in.

After Jakub Vrana made it 5-4, Ovechkin added the empty-netter for the knockout punch.

With three goals, Ovechkin now has 34 on the season. He passed Mario Lemieux and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals. Incredibly, this is the first time in his career Ovechkin has three straight multi-goal games.


Just what exactly lit the fire under the Caps butts for that third period will probably be a talking point after the game. Was it Devon Toews doing the bird celebration after he scored to make it 4-1? Was it pulling Braden Holtby and starting Ilya Samsonov in the third period? Was it something Todd Reirden or one of the players said?

Whatever it was, it was a different Caps team that took the ice for the third period.

Hagelin's turnaround

As great as Ovechkin's performance was -- and it was epic -- it might not happen without the Carl Hagelin's early third-period tally.

The comeback was sparked by Hagelin's goal that came less than three minutes into the final frame. A great pass by Richard Panik set Hagelin up on the doorstep and he hit it home.

That goal made it 4-2 and a two-goal deficit seems a lot less daunting than a three-goal one.

Shaky Varlamov

Once Ovechkin made it 4-3, you could smell the blood in the water. Washington had gotten to Varlamov and the flood gates were open.

Dmitry Orlov took the puck up to the top of the faceoff circle and fired a slap shot that Wilson managed to get a stick to and deflected it through Varlamov to tie the game.

About three minutes later, Vrana intercepted a pass and fired a quick shot to beat Varlamov far-side for the 5-4 lead.

Varlamov faced 10 shots in the third period and allowed four goals. The fifth came on an empty net.