The New York Islanders failed to sweep the Washington Capitals their last time out, so they'll want to make sure they seal the deal in Thursday's Game 5 before momentum really starts to shift.
If it's hope you want, Washington, here goes: the last a team rallied from 0-3 down was 2014, when the Los Angeles Kings got off the mat against San Jose — and wound up winning the Stanley Cup. Even the initial comeback has happened only four times in NHL history, though, so the Caps still have much to do before aspiring to that type of run.
In the rest of abe Insights' betting preview, you'll find the best available odds, a breakdown of the primary lines, key stats for both teams and more vital information to know about tonight's face-off.
Date: Thursday, August 20
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Islanders 50% Capitals 52%
Spread: NYI +1.5 (-260); WSH -1.5 (+250)
Moneyline: NYI +100; WSH -109
Washington goaltender Braden Holtby had a disappointing regular season, and that carried over to the first two games against New York. However, he's settled down since then, allowing only a couple goals in each of the last two, with Game 3 being a 2-1 overtime loss.
Holtby's counterpart, Semyon Varlamov, has been steadier all year and continues to shine in the playoffs with a 1.87 GAA. The Islanders goalie actually began his NHL career in the nation's capital, so he's bound to be extra motivated to send the Caps packing early.
96.3 vs. 73.3: Among playoff teams, Washington has the No. 3 penalty killing unit — and with more games played than the two leading, eliminated clubs Toronto and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the Isles are third-worst in percentage of penalties killed.
266 vs. 185: This stat matchup has been cited in this series before, but worth reiterating in the context of the above figures. These are the minor penalty minutes from 2019-20 for the Capitals (highest in NHL) and New York (second-lowest) respectively. If the Caps can avoid the penalty box more often, it'll enhance their chances of staying alive.
3.42 vs. 2.78: A simple yet effective illustration of how much upside each of these offensive attacks have. Washington ranked second in the league in goals per game; the Islanders were 22nd out of 31 teams.
Despite allowing two goals in the first period of Game 4, the Capitals weren't about to go down without a fight. Captain and prolific scorer Alex Ovechkin set the tone, rattling off the final two goals to lift Washington to a 3-2 win, keeping the season alive.
Perhaps even more crucial to the comeback was Holtby regaining some of the form that helped him through the franchise's run to the Stanley Cup title two postseasons ago. He shutout New York for the final 50-plus minutes, which has to give him a confidence boost.
While it's important for the Capitals to maintain their physical identity and aggressive, forechecking mentality, which Ovechkin willingly spearheads, focusing more on two-way hockey could go a long way in swinging this series.
New York had its fewest shots of the series (26) in Game 4, and the less quality scoring chances the Islanders get, the better off Holtby will be. In Washington's losses during the regular season, its team save percentage was third-worst in all of hockey at .857, whereas the Islanders had the No. 6 total at .878.
In other words, when the floodgates open on defense, Holtby tends to become much more of a sieve than Varlamov. If the Isles can jump on their adversary like they did in the opening period of Game 4, this may get ugly quickly. It'll be vital for Ovechkin and the Caps to start fast and keep their foot on the gas before New York rattles Holtby.
The goal total is lower than the average, and with all but one of the prior duels reaching at least five combined goals, expect the majority of bets to be placed on the Over.
Washington is probably going to get the slightly higher rate of wagers for its spread since it pays out so well, and on the moneyline. However, hedge bettors would do well to bet the Caps' puck line with the Islanders to win outright.
Note: Odds current as of 10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, August 20.
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