Washington Capitals (-108) at New York Islanders (-102, 5.5 o/u)
The Washington Capitals (41-10-4, 86 pts) will bring the NHL’s best record to Brooklyn tonight for a Metropolitan Division clash with the New York Islanders (30-19-6, 66 pts) at the Barclays Center (7 PM Eastern).
Washington has looked unstoppable at times this season, averaging a league-best 3.3 goals per game, while surrendering just 2.3 (second-best in the NHL). The Caps knocked off the Pacific Division-leading Kings, 3-1, on Tuesday, picking up their sixth win in the last seven games.
Washington was outshot 40-32 in the game, but got a marvelous performance from backup goalie Phillip Grubauer.
After falling to the Rangers in the 2012, 2013, and 2015 playoffs, the Caps made some significant moves in the offseason, looking to build a more postseason-ready roster. Arguably the biggest move of all was swapping longtime Capital Troy Brouwer for the Blues’ TJ Oshie.
Oshie has meshed well in his first year in Washington, putting up 16 goals and 33 points in 55 games. He credits the team’s chemistry for the impressive run.
“There’s obviously a lot of really good players in the league, but I feel like from top to bottom we’ve got a really good close core,” said Oshie to the Associated Press. “We battle well together. We play hard together. We mesh well on and off the ice.”
While the Capitals have struggled against the Rangers in the playoffs, they haven’t had too much trouble with New York’s other team – regardless of the time of year. The knocked the Islanders out in the first round of last year’s playoffs, and have won 30 of the last 49 against their conference foes, including eight of the last 11 in the regular season.
The Isles are in a dogfight for the third and final automatic playoff berth in the Metro Division. They currently hold down that third spot with 66 points, but the Devils (65 pts), Penguins (64 pts), and Hurricanes (62 pts) all have their sights set on it.
Luckily for head coach Jack Capuano, he has his squad playing its best hockey of the season at the moment. New York has won four of its last five, outscoring its opponents 20-6. Leading scorer John Tavares has nine points in that span, but he’s struggled against Washington lately, going pointless in the last three (including last season’s Game 7 setback).
Unless Tavares can bump that slump, the Islanders will struggle to score against the Caps and Vezina frontrunner Braden Holtby (who should be well rested).
Though tonight’s game is in Brooklyn, the Caps look like better value. The Isles are just .500 at home, while Washington is a phenomenal 20-6-2 on the road.
Pick: Washington (-108).
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