Washington Offensive GVT: 18.6
Washington Defensive GVT: 8.4
Washington Goaltending GVT: 6.6
Washington Total GVT: 39.0
New York Offensive GVT: 26.6
New York Defensive GVT: 8.5
New York Goaltending GVT: -15.8
New York Total GVT: 22.0
Washington’s power play unit is nothing to be trifled with. They boast the league’s best Power Play Percentage at 25.3%, largely thanks in part to one of the most unstoppable plays among playoff teams: the Ovechkin one-timer. It’s sure nice to have the third consecutive Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner clapping home slappers time and time again on the end of a dizzying string of passes. You know this core is for real too, since they tied for first in PP% last year and finished first yet again in 2012-13. The Islanders, while wanting to play a physical game in the playoffs, will need to tread carefully.
On the other end of the ice, the Caps have a staunch goaltender in Braden Holtby. The Capitals leaned on him heavily during the regular season, as he led all netminders in the league in games started with 72 and shots faced with 2044. But he’s accepted the responsibility well by posting a .923 save percentage for the season and is 4th in the league in GVT.
One last interesting caveat that bodes well for the Capitals is that, like many other great teams, they have posted almost the same record when playing at home (23-13-5) and away (22-13-6).
While the power play unit is top notch, their 5-on-5 play has been middling. Their 5-on-5 Corsi% for the season is 14th in the league at 51.4% and their 5-on-5 2.25 Goals For per 60 minutes is 17th in the league. If the refs decide to swallow the whistle for too large of a part of this series, the Islanders may have a window of opportunity to exploit.
Less worrying, though still a potential area of concern, is the top-heaviness of Washington’s offense. When you look at the league leading point-getters in all situations, you see Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom at 5th and 6th with 81 and 78 points, respectively. However the next two Caps on the list do not appear until #62 and #100 with John Carlson at 55 points and Marcus Johansson at 47. If the two top liners are off of their game, and whoever slots on at the right-wing spot for the series can’t provide enough support, the Caps will struggle find a scoring punch.
New York Strengths
Since we’re an advanced stats-leaning site, it should be noted first and foremost that the Islanders finished 2nd in Fenwick% and 6th in the league in Corsi%. We’re the first to admit that it’s not the end-all be-all predictor of team success (Hi, Kings fans.), but in the long run it does a respectable job. Couple this with the fact that the Islanders were 26th in the league in PDO means they may have some wiggle room for improvement.
While the most popular player of this series is wearing #8 for the Capitals, the Islanders have a star rebuttal of their own in the form 24-year old (!) John Tavares. It will take you but two rows on the league-leading points list to find the Islanders captain. A big part of this series will be a matchup between the Capitals’ size and physicality vs the Islanders’ speed. It will be up to Tavares to lead the charge in order to be the catalyst for other young talent on the Islanders to contribute, such as defenseman Nick Leddy and Calder Trophy contender Anders Lee.
New York Weaknesses
After a tough shootout loss on the last game of the regular season, the Islanders have to bounce back from the stolen luxury of home ice advantage. They’ll need all of the help they can get whenever they’re up against the Caps’ power play unit. The Islanders ranked 26th in the league in Penalty Kill Percentage this year. Things could get ugly each time the Islanders put a man in the box.
The other weakness, or perhaps question mark, is goaltending. Jaroslav Halak has put up a career year with 28 wins in 59 starts for the Islanders, but his .914 save percentage tell a more worrisome tale. While the Islanders are second in the league in Shots For %, they will have to keep this clip up and drive the pressure toward the offensive zone so that they don’t enter a contest relying exclusively on Halak to stand on his head.
I saw various sportsbooks offering Washington to win the series at -140. That translates to about a 58.3% probability.
In order to figure out which series-winning scenario is most likely to occur, we need to reverse engineer the series-winning probability to come up with a single-game probability. We have to sum up all possible combinations of outcomes of the series such that the scenarios with Washington winning the series adds up to 58.3%. For simplicity, we assume they have the same chances of winning each game (which is dubious, I know). A little guess and check gets the probability of the Capitals winning a single game at around 54%. With that, we get the following breakdown:
Islanders in 4 5%
Islanders in 5 10%
Islanders in 6 13%
Islanders in 7 14%
Capitals in 4 8%
Capitals in 5 16%
Capitals in 6 18%
Capitals in 7 17%
Capitals win series 58.3%
Islanders win series 41.7%
Therefore, Vegas says the best bet is Capitals in 6, and I have to agree with them. Too many question marks on the Islanders side and few glaring weaknesses for the Capitals likely means it’s going to take an Islanders team firing on all cylinders (and a bit of luck) to knock off the Capitals.
(All stats gathered from NHL.com and stats.hockeyanalysis.com)