Capitals will play Islanders in Eastern Conference First Round


The Washington Capitals will play the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Washington was 1-1-1 in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and finished as the No. 3 seed in the East. New York eliminated the Florida Panthers in four games in its best-of-5 series and will be the No. 6 seed.

“It will be interesting,” Capitals forward Tom Wilson told NBC. “Obviously, we know them well, some personnel and the coaching staff (Barry Trotz) that we’re familiar with. Obviously a good rivalry. We’re excited for it and ready to go.”

Radko Gudas led the Capitals with two assists in the round-robin. Alex Ovechkin did not have a point, and Nicklas Backstrom had one assist. Braden Holtby played all three games for Washington and had a 1.98 GAA and .925 save percentage.

Anthony Beauvillier led the way with five points (three goals, two assists) in the Qualifiers for New York, which entered as the No. 7 seed. Ryan Pulock (one goal, three assists) had four points, Josh Bailey and Devon Toews each had four assists, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored three goals. Semyon Varlamov was 3-1-0 with a 1.77 GAA and .932 save percentage.

“I think it will be a [heck] of a series. Both teams are well-equipped to go at each other,” said Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup in 2018. “But I think both teams, that group has a lot of pedigree. They’ve got a lot of star power and they’ve won a championship. They’re well-equipped in a lot of areas, so the biggest challenge is to play them even and play them hard, and they’ll do the same because I know a lot about that team.”

The Capitals were 2-2-0 against the Islanders during the regular season. John Carlson (one goal, four assists) and Backstrom (five assists) each had five points. Ovechkin (three goals, one assist) and T.J. Oshie (two goals, two assists) each had four points. Holtby was 0-1-0 with a 3.85 goals-against average and .857 save percentage in three games (two starts). Ilya Samsonov, who is unfit to play in the postseason, was 2-1-0 with a 3.26 GAA and .887 save percentage in three games (two starts).

“It is going to be a hard series, a fun series,” Holtby said. “It is going to make for some really good hockey and right now, it is up to us to make sure we are mentally committed, everyone on our team to be ready for that, and it is going to be fun.”

Beauvillier led the Islanders with six points (two goals, four assists) against Washington, and Toews (three goals, two assists) and Brock Nelson (two goals, three assists) each had five points. Varlamov was 1-2-0 with a 3.39 GAA and .896 save percentage in three starts. Thomas Greiss allowed three goals on 29 shots in his only start, a 5-3 win on Feb. 10.

“Obviously, you’ve spent some time with a lot of their players, there’s a lot of new players,” said Trotz, who coached the Capitals from 2014-18. “It just gives me a little insight on some of their tendencies, that’s all. You look at their power play and their special teams are top-notch, they’ve got a lot of weapons. We’ll focus on a lot of those tendencies and see if we can nullify them.”

This will be the eighth playoff series between the teams. New York has won five of the previous seven, but Washington won the most recent in seven games in the 2015 Eastern Conference First Round.

The best-of-7 series will be played at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city. deputy managing editor Brian Compton contributed to this report

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