The Washington Capitals travel to the Island Thursday night. Here’s what to watch for when the puck drops.
The Caps’ Marcus Johansson has had a quiet rookie season, but with Alexander Semin out and Alex Ovechkin still not scoring at his accustomed rate, the Swedish center has been shouldering the offensive load lately, with three goals and an assist in the past five games. Similarly, Isles rookie Michael Grabner, the team’s lone representative at All-Star weekend, has notched a pair of goals and an assist over his past three contests. There will be a spotlight on some young-bloods tonight.
Fire At Will
The Islanders still don’t seem to have a fix for preventing shots on goal in bunches. That’s a flaw that could prove costly against Ovechkin, the NHL’s leader in shots with 211 this season. You simply can’t give the Great 8 that many chances to score. Even if he’s struggling, as he has this season, if you play with fire the red lights and sirens are going to start flashing. It’s better to take away his space and keep a close watch on him to make sure he doesn’t heat up in the first place. Make his teammates beat you.
The Islanders haven’t lost back-to-back games in regulation since Dec. 13 and have been playing their best hockey of the year. If they want to keep that streak alive against the Caps they’ll need to get a strong forecheck going. Washington’s blueliners are terrific with the puck … in the offensive zone. Clearing their own end? Muchas problemas. Apply some pressure, force some turnovers and deposit them in the goal. Easier said than done, but that’s precisely what should be said in the New York locker room prior to this game.