Today’s Video Of Day comes courtesy of Mat Barzal in a game that was just completed in Toronto.
With the Caps needing a win in Game Three to get back in their first round series versus the Barry Trotz Islanders, they only could muster one goal and not enough shots on opposing goalie Semyon Varlamov. Ironically, he started his career in Washington and is now a win away from eliminating the Caps.
That’s because Barzal’s overtime heroics finished off the Capitals in a 2-1 Islanders win to take a commanding 3-0 series lead in the first round.
The clutch OT winner which was a beauty that Picasso or Renoir could be proud of came following Varlamov’s two biggest saves of the game. He denied Jakub Vrana twice on a breakaway including a rebound opportunity.
What followed was a good Islanders transition. Barzal received a nice pass from Jordan Eberle, stayed onside and then turned on the jets to go by Brenden Dillon and toast John Carlson before faking and deking Braden Holtby to tuck in a backhand for a great goal that ended it.
It was that simple. Barzal might not be the greatest two-way player despite Trotz coaching him. But he’s still a game breaker and easily the most talented Islander. In terms of skill level, the third-year center is helping his case for a contract extension after his rookie deal expires. He’s been good in the three games.
Brock Nelson has probably been the most consistent Islander this season. He scores and sets up key goals while playing a responsible two-way game as a number two center. Adding the gritty and hard working J.G. Pageau was a stroke of genius by GM Lou Lamoriello. A hard nosed player who uses his speed and determination to outwork opponents. Pageau seems to always be involved whether it’s winning key draws or scoring timely goals.
It’s not surprising that the Isles are on the verge of eliminating the Caps, who have been without Nicklas Backstrom since a Anders Lee hit early in Game One. That loss sure didn’t help a team that looks lost under second-year coach Todd Reirden, who makes no in game adjustments and questionable lineup decisions. His job could be on the line if they get swept.
The Islanders have been quicker to the puck, gotten more shots through and done much better at five-on-five. The Capitals rely heavily on the power play. Alex Ovechkin has two goals which both came in a Game Two loss. He was held without a shot for just the fourth time in his postseason career.
That speaks to the fine attention to detail Trotz has his Isles playing in a very stingy system that emphasizes tight checking and blocked shots. These were areas the Caps succeeded at when they won the Stanley Cup in 2018 under Trotz. That work ethic is gone and so too seems to be their window.
Holtby did the best he could making a lot of big saves to give the Caps a chance. But it wasn’t enough. Holtby could be playing his final game as a Cap this week. He’s a unrestricted free agent this October. Given that he’s regressed in terms of consistency after being an elite goalie who won a Vezina and Cup, he’ll likely leave and get a short term deal from a team like the Sabres or Red Wings, who can use a veteran netminder.
Washington will move on with Ilya Samsonov, who’s injured and unavailable for the series. He had a good rookie year and is clearly the future of the Caps in net.
As for the Isles, they’ll continue to outwork and out-grind the Capitals and advance to the second round. Don’t forget they qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs by taking the Play In series over the one dimensional Panthers in four. At least Florida got a game.
It looks like the Caps will suffer the same fate as the Pens last year. Barzal all but guaranteed it.