During the offseason, the Washington Capitals spent big bucks on their defense after hiring head coach Barry Trotz. Those two factors seemed to come in quite handy in a Game 7 win against the New York Islanders.
Now, of course, the highlight reels will favor Evgeny Kuznetsov’s slick game-winner, and it’s easy to see why:
Still, the Capitals played a nearly perfect defensive game, however people feel about officiating and other issues. In fact, most would probably agree that even Braden Holtby’s goal allowed was more about the strong netminder having a rare (and almost critical) lapse.
Incredibly, Washington held the Islanders to just 11 shots on goal in the entire game. The most suffocating span probably came during the first period:
Jaroslav Halak had his adventurous moments with wild bounces off the boards, yet he was often outstanding, nearly befuddling the Capitals in yet another elimination situation. It’s unlikely the Islanders are looking on the bright side right now, but at least they should feel confident about locking down a goalie who remains excellent with everything on the line (even with this loss, he’s 6-2 in elimination games during his postseason career).
With this, the Capitals move on to face the New York Rangers in a rivalry that’s becoming familiar to fans of this Ovechkin-era Washington team. One could argue that, when you consider the strengths of both teams, this might just be the best the two squads have been collectively.
It’s a crushing feeling for the Islanders, who move from Long Island to Brooklyn with a heavy heart (though they at least closed Nassau Coliseum with a win).
Harsh or not, some will single out Islanders captain John Tavares:
(To be fair, Tavares had a nice series overall.)
Many will wonder why Isles bench boss Jack Capuano didn’t pull Jaroslav Halak during an honestly surprising late power-play opportunity, but ultimately, it was a team letdown for New York. They’ll have an uncomfortable amount of time to think about that … and possibly make some changes to continue their strides toward contender status in the East.
That said, considering serious injuries to their defense corps, the Islanders may at least find some sweetness to go along with all the bitter feelings of seeing their season end on Monday. It just might take some time.