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Capitals vs. Islanders Odds & Pick: Washington Has the Edge in NHL East Division Showdown (April 1)

Capitals vs. Islanders Odds & Pick: Washington Has the Edge in NHL East Division Showdown (April 1) article feature image

Al Bello/Getty Images. Pictured: John Carlson #74 of the Washington Capitals celebrates.

  • The Capitals are on a tear, resembling their Stanley Cup champion ways, sitting atop the East.
  • New York is close behind but has struggled since losing Anders Lee.
  • Pete Truszkowski likes Washington to show why its it first place.

Capitals vs. Islanders Odds

Capitals Odds +112
Islanders Odds -132
Over/Under 5.5
Time 7:00 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday night and via FanDuel

The two top teams in the NHL’s East Division meet up on Thursday night when the Washington Capitals visit Nassau Coliseum on Long Island to take on the New York Islanders. Washington enters with a two point advantage over the Isles in the standings and has won the first three games between the teams this season. 

With both teams coming off rare losses, what can we expect in this heavy-weight battle on Thursday night?

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Washington Capitals

Despite losing their last game, the Capitals have still won 14 of their last 17 games to propel themselves into the top seed in the division. Going into the season, there was concern that the core that won the Stanley Cup in 2018 might be on the decline, but that has proven to be premature. New coach Peter Laviolette has come in and righted the ship.

The Capitals dealt with a COVID-outbreak early in the season as well as some additional injuries. This forced key players like Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Samsonov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, TJ Oshie, Dmitry Orlov, Tom Wilson and Justin Schultz to miss games. Since these players have returned, Washington has been borderline unstoppable.

Over the last six weeks, Washington ranks sixth in expected goal rate and high danger chance percentage. They’re above average in shot attempt share as well. Despite the elite talent the Capitals possess, it’s actually been their defense that has driven the team. During this time frame, Washington ranks fourth in expected goals against and third in high danger chances allowed per hour. 

While Washington’s offense has been average in terms of shot generation and puck possession, that’s good enough when you consider the talent level on the team. With players like Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Oshie, Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom, Jake Vrana and John Carlson, the team doesn’t need many opportunities to put up a crooked number. Any one of these guys can wreck a game. 

If there’s one question mark about this team, it’s their goaltending. Both Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek have been quite unspectacular. Their save percentage is slightly below league average, but their goals saved above expectation (GSAx) shows that the duo has cost the Capitals 9.65 goals this season. 

New York Islanders

On first look, the Islanders have an impressive 22-10-4 record and sit comfortably in a playoff spot in the East Division. However, a closer inspection might lead to some concern.

During their game on March 11th, New York lost leading goal-scorer and team captain Anders Lee to a season-ending injury. Since then, the Isles are a pedestrian 5-4-0 and have won just two of those games in regulation. They’ve still done a good job of driving play during that time, but the loss of talent has been obvious. 

The most impacted player on the team has been Mat Barzal. Barzal is the Isles’ most talented forward, but he has just one goal and five points in the nine games without his linemate. With Lee, Barzal had nine goals in 25 games and was producing at nearly a point-per-game. Being tasked with carrying Leo Komarov on his wing, Barzal has slowed down. This is not good for the Isles’ offensive game. 

The rest of the Isles’ game remains largely unchanged. They do a splendid job in the defensive zone. No team allows less high danger chances per hour than New York. The Isles also rank top five in expected goals against per hour. They are a top five team in terms of driving play with their expected goal rate. 

Semyon Varlamov has been solid for the Isles, posting a +2.83 GSAx on the season. Rookie Ilya Sorokin has taken more starts from Varlamov as the season has progressed, and he’s shown flashes of brilliance as well as some inconsistencies. Nevertheless, the goaltending has been more than good enough. 

Capitals vs. Islanders Best Bet

On paper, this looks like a matchup between two beasts in the East. However, it’s hard for me to ignore how inconsistent and unimpressive the Isles have looked without Lee in the line-up. This is a team that very clearly will upgrade their top six at the trade deadline, and until then, they are trying to tread water. 

That strategy might work against some of the more average and mediocre teams in the division, but Washington is not that. The Capitals have been playing very good hockey almost all season, and they’ve beaten the Isles three times already this season. 

New York has a chance of grinding out this game while hoping they can win the goaltending battle, but I don’t think they should be solid favorites in this game despite their impressive home record at the Coliseum. 

I expect the Islanders to be unimpressive until they upgrade their forward group. For that reason, I’d bet the Capitals as long as they are plus-money 

Pick: Washington ML +112 (+100 or better)

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