One of the most well-known rivalries in the Eastern Conference has taken place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in five years. And now, the New York Islanders are currently in the driver’s seat with a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the second year in a row.
The Islanders last playoff series match against the Washington Capitals happened in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2015, when the Capitals barely defeated the Islanders in Game 7, making it a 5-2 playoff series lead for the Islanders over the Capitals, dating their first playoff series meeting back to 1983, the time of the New York Islanders dynasty.
In the first two games of the 2020 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Washington Capitals struck first when T.J. Oshie scored the two power-play goals in Game 1 and Alex Ovechkin scored the first goal in Game 2. However, despite taking the lead first, the Islanders eventually found their way out of a sluggish first period in both games and got the offense going to score 4 goals in Game 1 and 5 goals in Game 2.
In Game 1, after trailing 2-0 in the second period, Jordan Eberle scored his third goal of the postseason with 1:03 left in the second period. Afterwards, the Islanders dominated the third period with three goals, including a goal by Josh Bailey during a Capitals power-play, as the Islanders took a 4-2 victory in Game 1. Two days later, the Islanders would once again get work started in the second period, starting with a power-play goal by Nick Leddy, his first goal of the postseason. Then, goals by Matt Martin and Brock Nelson afterwards would be enough to secure a 5-2 win for New York, as they now lead the Washington Capitals 2-0 in Round 1.
In the first two games of Round 1, Semyon Varlamov, goaltender of the New York Islanders, has allowed two goals in the first two games of the opening round, but made 23 saves in Game 1 and 24 saves in Game 2. In his first year with New York, Varlamov has proven to be the hole that the Islanders needed to fill after they were unable to re-sign Robin Lehner, current goaltender of the Vegas Golden Knights, after he initially left for Chicago during free agency.
The Islanders have found an early answer in the opening round against the Capitals, and most of that success would be courtesy of Barry Trotz, second-year head coach of the Islanders and former Capitals head coach. Before signing with the Islanders in 2019, he led the Capitals the season before to their first-ever Stanley Cup title against then-first year franchise Vegas Golden Knights in a 4-1 series win. Because of his time with Washington, Trotz has been able to have Islanders understand what the Capitals may try to do to rise above them and have them improve with each season.
The Islanders will look to go up 3-0 against the Capitals when they face them again on Sunday at Noon. Should the Islanders win the series over Washington, their second round opponent will be determined based on who else in the Eastern Conference will advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals as the pairings in the playoffs are re-seeded after each series.