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Islanders vs. Capitals Game 3 Odds & Pick (Sunday, Aug. 16): Bet on Washington to Bounce Back

Islanders vs. Capitals Game 3 Odds & Pick (Sunday, Aug. 16): Bet on Washington to Bounce Back article feature image

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images. Pictured: The Washington Capitals react

Islanders vs. Capitals Odds

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Islanders Odds -103 [BET NOW]
Capitals Odds -114 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 5.5 (+116/-141) [BET NOW]
Time 12 p.m. ET

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Sports are rife with schadenfreude. The binary nature of sports means that your happiness can only be derived from your opponent’s misfortune. Hockey is no exception. The New York Islanders’ best moments have arisen from the Washington Capitals’ miseries, which brings us to the current moment with the Capitals two games away from elimination.

So, is this 2018 when Washington fell behind by two games to Columbus, but then rallied to win four straight and go on to raise the Cup? Or is this a repeat of last season when it was bounced by a plucky underdog?

New York Islanders

The parasitic quality of the Islanders’ offense has been at the foreground in this series. The game-winning goal by New York’s Josh Bailey in Game 1 came off a terrible turnover during a Capitals power play. In Game 2, Brock Nelson sprung a counterattack from Jakub Vrana’s ham-fisted handling of the puck high in the offensive zone to net the game-winner.

In Game 1, Washington goaltender Braden Holtby’s whiff at the puck enabled the Jordan Eberle goal, and Holtby was also culpable on Bailey’s shorthanded marker.

Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov was the victim of humiliation in Game 2 when he lost track of Matt Martin and then spat out the puck to Jean Gabriel-Pageau on the Cal Clutterbuck goal for New York. For most of us philistines, a typo in a business memo or faux pas at a meeting doesn’t result in ruinous consequences.

To the Islanders’ credit, they have shone a light on the Capitals’ shoddy breakout, suspect goaltending and lack of discipline, both with the puck and committing penalties. The Islanders’ structured defense and forecheck have defanged the Capitals’ offense, but the Nicklas Backstrom injury has also been devastating for Washington. Backstrom has missed five of the six periods played in this series so far, and Washington is getting dominated in his absence.

In this series, the Islanders have a 65.9% expected goals and 24 high-danger chances to the Capitals’ 10. The Capitals have mustered only two 5-on-5 goals. While Backstrom, a key piece of the Capitals’ top six, is missing, New York’s scoring forwards are running wild.

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

In Game 1 at 5-on-5, the Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson lines combined for nine shots while allowing only four. The Nelson line is worth highlighting. It finished Game 1 with an astonishing 100% expected goals. In Game 2, it was badly outshot, but potted one of the two 5-on-5 goals for New York and created four high-danger chances while surrendering only one.

Four high-danger chances is the sum from all the Capitals’ lines in that game. Now that the Islanders will have the last change, expect the Nelson line and the Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock defensive pairing to be utilized against the Ovechkin line. Pelech and Pulock saw a lot of Ovechkin and his gang in the first two games, but Nelson didn’t really matchup against the Capitals’ top line.

Islanders coach Barry Trotz will probably be happy to have his Barzal line hock its wares against Washington’s puppy-dog, harmless bottom-six forwards. It has been remarkable how anonymous the Capitals’ supporting cast has been aside from taking foolish penalties.

Washington Capitals

Since coach Todd Reirden took over, Washington has become a pastiche of the former Barry Trotz Caps. The same players are there and the style of play mimics what they did during their Cup run. But this performance comes off as derivative and cheap.

There are murmurs that Backstrom may return for Game 3. That is encouraging because Washington is toothless without him. During the regular season, with Backstrom on the ice, the Capitals had an expected goals of 53.91% at 5-on-5. The Capitals’ defensemen are flailing on their zone exits and Backstrom’s absence exacerbates this problem because he isn’t there to aid them.

Playing the No. 2 center spot due to Backstrom’s injury is Lars Eller, who is understandably rusty after having attended the birth of his child and not having played since Aug. 3. Eller’s bad turnover on a breakout led to the Matt Martin goal in Game 2. In fact, the Eller line with T.J. Oshie and Vrana was responsible for all three of the Islanders’ 5-on-5 goals.

Even if Backstrom returns for Game 3, one player holds the power to nuke any effort of a comeback and that is goaltender Braden Holtby. Two goaltenders still alive in the playoffs have a worse Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) than Holtby at the moment. They are Jordan Binnington and Ben Bishop, both of whom are on teams that are trailing in the series. (Bishop also lost the starting job.)

It can be argued that Holtby lost Game 1 for the Capitals, but he wasn’t awful in Game 2. Unfortunately, his struggles are magnified when comparing him to Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who has been stellar. For Washington to make the series interesting, Holtby needs to elevate his play — and quickly.

Considering he was one of the worst goaltenders in GSAx during the regular season, and is likely on his way out of Washington, he may be the variable that most imperils a comeback. Still, one wonders what would happen if the Capitals simplified their game and resisted the east-west passes.

Maybe more than any other player, Evgeny Kuznetsov holds the key because he has the skill to skate into open space. If he takes those shots in the slot, it could alter the game.

My Pick

I am haunted by the Capitals’ team defense and lack of supplementary scoring, and ultimately these probably doom them in the series. But going up 3-0 in the NHL playoffs is incredibly hard, and especially if Backstrom returns, Washington has the scoring firepower to temporarily overcome its many weaknesses.

At -114, I like the price for a team that won the Cup only two years ago with most of this roster. The Islanders would be tempting only should the number rise to around +114, which is where Vancouver, another underdog with a 2-0 lead, is at.

The Bet: Capitals -114 [Bet now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

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