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Playoff Gameday: Islanders Game 1 Lines and Notes vs. Capitals

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Islanders Capitals Game 1

It’s hard to imagine that this is only Game 1 of the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but here we are.

The Islanders begin their Series with the Washington Capitals this afternoon at 3 p.m. It will be the first time that the Islanders face the Capitals in the postseason since 2015 and the first time Barry Trotz will go up against his former club in the playoffs.

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There won’t be much change in the Islanders lineup when they hit the ice for Game 1. The Islanders are expected to keep much of their lineup intact from their previous series against the Florida Panthers. Johnny Boychuk is expected to be ready for the opening game against Washington and Ross Johnston is “in the mix” to crack the lineup.

Johnston can provide the Islanders with another big body that can play a physical game.

They will need that against a talented and tough Washington squad. The Capitals notably play a much more physical game than the Panthers did in the Qualifying Round. Trotz went as far as to compare Johnston to Tom Wilson, who the Islanders will see this round.

That’s without mentioning the fact the Islanders will need to slow down guys like Alex Ovechkin and the other plethora of offensive talent on the Caps roster.

“He’s a very dangerous offensive player,” said Semyon Varlamov, who will be tasked with stopping Ovechkin between the pipes. “He scores a lot of goals. We’re going to have to play very smart against him and then try to take care of him.”

Ovechkin isn’t the only one they’ll need to worry about. Nicklas Backstrom has 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) during the regular season, Wilson has 21 goals on the year and John Carlson has 75 points (15 goals, 60 assists).

Not to mention the Capitals possess a dangerous power play that can drive even the best teams up a wall.

“They’re obviously a very solid squad. They were champions a couple of years ago,” Jordan Eberle said. “You look at their lineup they obviously have a lot of guys that can put the puck in the net. They’re a dynamic team. They’re big. We’ll definitely have our hands full in a lot of situations.”

Islanders Projected Lines

Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle

Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey

Derick Brassard — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Leo Komarov

Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck

Defense

Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews — Scott Mayfield

Nick Leddy — Johnny Boychuk

Goalies

Semyon Varlamov

Thomas Greiss

Washington Capitals

The Capitals will be without Lars Eller for Game 1. The Washinton forward left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of their child. He has returned to the Toronto bubble, but he did not practice yesterday and Capitals coach Todd Reirden ruled him out for today’s game.

The Capitals coach also indicated that John Carlson will be a game-time decision for Game 1. Travis Boyd will remain in the Capitals lineup today.

Capitals Project Lines

Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana — Nicklas Backstrom — T.J. Oshie

Carl Hagelin — Travis Boyd — Ilya Kovalchuk

Richard Panik — Nic Dowd — Garnet Hathaway

Defense

Michal Kempny — John Carlson

Brenden Dillon — Dmitry Orlov

Jonas Siegenthaler — Nick Jensen

Goalies

Braden Holtby

Vitek Vanecek

Islanders Not Expecting Qualifying Round Boost Over Capitals | NYHN+

Game Notes

Today’s game will be the eighth time that the Islanders and Capitals have met in the postseason. The Islanders hold a 21-16 edge against the Caps in the playoff games. Their last meeting was back in 2015 when Washington defeated New York in seven games in the First round. …. The Islanders split the season series with the Capitals 2-2 during the 2019-20 campaign. In their two games against Washington in the new year, they dropped a Jan. 18 meeting 6-4 at Nassau Coliseum and defeated them 5-3 on Feb. 10 on the road. … Casey Cizikas led the Islanders this season with three goals against the Caps, while Ovechkin was the Capitals leading scorer against the Islanders with three goals this year.

How to Watch

Locally the game will air on MSG+ and MSG GO, and nationally on NBCSN. For those outside the New York market, the game can also be streamed on NHL.TV. On the radio dial, the game will air on 98.7 FM ESPN New York, 1050 ESPN, 88.7 FM WRHU and 103.9 FM LI News Radio.

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New York Islanders

GREENE TEAM: Veteran Defenseman Andy Greene Prepares to Face Former ‘Mates

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Andy Greene

COVID-19 altered or canceled many things over the course of the roughly 10 months that the United States and the rest of the world have dealt with the virus. Among those milestones or events that had to be put off was the chance for Andy Greene to play against his former team, the New Jersey Devils.

Greene was acquired by the New York Islanders in mid-February and would have faced his former team in mid-March had it not been for the league postponing the season on March 12. The veteran defenseman will finally get that chance on Thursday when the Isles play New Jersey in the first of two matchups over the next four days.

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The Islanders will host New Jersey at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night and then travel to the Prudential Center on Sunday.

“Obviously first time doing this and you know it’s going to be strange,” Greene said after the Islanders practiced on Long Island Wednesday. “it will be weird, but once we get out there I’m sure strange seeing a couple of those guys that I still have a really good relationship with. I don’t know (how it will be).

“I know it’s kind of weird. Once the puck drops and we get through the first shift there it will be hockey as usual, but for sure it will be my first time going through it.”

The 15-year NHL defenseman had been a lifelong Devil before he was traded last season to boost the Islanders’ depth at the blue line. Adam Pelech had been lost for the season following a freak injury in January and while Noah Dobson had been performing admirably in his place, the Isles needed some help.

Andy Greene only played three regular-season games in New York before COVID-19 shut down the season. The vet was able to establish his role during the postseason, where he became a vital piece in the Islanders’ run to the conference finals.

While Greene and his family have adjusted going from Devils to Islanders since the February trade, there are still little adjustments that they’re getting used to.

For instance, on Monday with the Islanders playing a matinee Greene’s two young sons were able to watch the home opener against the Boston Bruins. The Greenes watched the game from home, like the rest of the fans, and Greene’s 3-year-old son got all excited when the MSG+ broadcast showed Sparky, the Islanders mascot.

However, it did raise one pressing question for the youngest member of the Greene family.

“He was like, ‘where is NJ Devil,'” Greene said. “We were like, ‘well bud he’s not there, We’re not there anymore he’s not going to be there, but maybe on Sunday you’ll be able to see him on TV there.'”

And while Greene’s family adjusts to the change in mascots, Greene will have to find a way to play through facing guys that he came up with in the  NHL. Travis Zajac and Greene played for New Jersey together for nearly their entire careers.

Andy Greene and Zajac both made their NHL debuts during the 2006-07 and the two developed a close friendship.

“That will be obviously the more weird ones to play against,” Greene said. “Obviously knowing him, just the relationship we have together and everything we’ve been through together as teammates and friends. It will be fun. It will be good. Obviously, it will be a great challenge.”

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Oliver Wahlstrom could give New York Islanders scoring jolt

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Oliver Wahlstrom

Since the New York Islanders three-goal barrage in the first period against the New York Rangers on opening night, the team has amassed just two goals over the ensuing eight periods.

Yes, it’s a small sample size and still early in the season, but in an abbreviated campaign, each game’s importance is magnified.

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Through three games, the Islanders rank 28th in the league in Corsi For percentage (42.45, per Natural Stat Trick), and just haven’t generated a ton of sustained offensive zone time outside of a brilliant start a Madison Square Garden. Hockey Reference has the Islanders at 0.7 expected goals for per game, which is tied for last with the New Jersey Devils.

It’s not time to sound the alarm bells, but it’s also not ideal to hit the snooze button and let the problem linger.

Up and down the lineup the Islanders can get more contributions from everyone. But a little tweak on the third line might go a long way. Adding 20-year-old Oliver Wahlstrom might just give the team a little spark.

With the departure of Derrick Brassard, the Islanders have so far relied on a third line of Kieffer Bellows, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Ross Johnston. That line has seen the fewest ice time of any of the offensive units, although Pageau has played in a bit of a hybrid role and has skated with other teammates and has received special teams time.

Semyon Varlamov Dominant in Shutout Win Over Boston Bruins

Right now that third line is acting more like a fourth, and not giving the Islanders much — if any — scoring depth. Bellows and Johnston have each have recorded just one shot on goal through three games. Even in limited playing time, that’s just not enough to make any tangible difference.

Sure, one could argue that this group is out there to create a forecheck and maybe give the Islanders an extra physical presence. But the fourth line already fulfills that role, and with Matt Martin already in the lineup, Barry Trotz and the Islanders are double-dipping a bit by keeping Johnston out there.

Oliver Wahlstrom has only nine games of NHL experience under his belt from last year, but did produce 22 points over 45 AHL games with Bridgeport last year. As a 19-year-old with the big club last season, he did produce a 46 percent CF percentage in those nine games, which isn’t at all terrible for a first cup of coffee as a teenager at hockey’s highest level.

On loan in Sweden this winter, Wahlstrom produced four goals and four assists over 10 games and flashed the offensive zone ability he was lauded for when the Islanders used a first-round pick on him in 2018. Wahlstrom has a high ceiling and plenty of skill with the puck, which could give the team an added element it is right now lacking.

When Michael Dal Colle officially returns from injured reserve, he’ll likely get a shot to skate on Pageau’s wing on the third line. Trotz said on Tuesday that Dal Colle was “real close” to coming off IR.

With 17 points in 85 games, Dal Colle probably won’t move the scoring needle a ton for the Islanders.

It might not be a huge difference-maker right now, but giving Oliver Wahlstrom a chance to come off the taxi squad and into the lineup could give the Islanders a little bit of an offensive spark and take the pressure off some of the top-six forwards.

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Semyon Varlamov Dominant in Shutout Win Over Boston Bruins

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Semyon Varlamov

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Semyon Varlamov didn’t miss a beat on Monday.

Despite missing his scheduled start on Saturday due to a freak injury during warmups, the veteran goaltender was on the ice and in command of his net in the New York Islanders 1-0 win over the Boston Bruins. Varlamov made 27 saves as he became the first goalie in franchise history to record shutouts in their first two games of the season.

“I can tell that’s the best result I’ve ever had after two games,” Varlamov said. I’ve never had back to back shutouts at the beginning of the season. I mean I’ve had some seasons where I’ve felt great, but still, the outcome is different. I’m glad it happened this way and I’m pretty happy about the result.”

Semyon Varlamov was dominant in his second outing of the year on Monday. The Islanders’ netminder withstood what felt like a barrage of shots Boston threw at him over the course of the 60-minute contest.

Varlamov is only the 14th goaltender in NHL history to start the season with shutouts in his first two starts.

It was up in the air if Varlamov would even be able to start on Monday. He was injured by a shot during warmups on Saturday night and was forced to miss the game.

“I got hit in the face during warmups,” Varlamov said. “It happens you know. I felt a little dizzy. It happens. I felt fine the next morning. I skated yesterday, felt pretty good after practice. Barry decided to put me in the net. I felt pretty good today.”

The Russian goalie held Boston at bay early in the game. Boston tilted the ice in their favor through the first 20 minutes of the game, pressuring the Islanders and outshooting them 11-3.

The Islanders managed to right the ship as the game went on, it was the early effort from Varlamov that helped the Islanders turn the tide.

“I thought early he was a big reason we got a win tonight,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “He made some really good saves against a very good hockey team. He just calmed our game, gave us a chance. In the second period, we got our feet moving and started to play more to our identity.”

The shutout win certainly had plenty of people excited, Varlamov tried to keep the situation within perspective after the game

“I’ll take back-to-back shutouts, I’m not going to lie,” Varlamov said. “I’m pretty happy today. But this is just the beginning of the year, a lot of games coming. We played well today and I’m glad we scored the important goal in the end.”

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