Can the Washington Capitals overcome their own struggles in the early going?
It’s been a frustrating year for the Caps, and one that has been accompanied by a series of questionable decisions and missteps that has led to some high-profile absences for their top players.
With the team facing a potential stretch of three straight games against the Islanders, the team’s top prospect, Nikolay Goldobin, has been sidelined with an upper-body injury.
So, will the Caps make a strong push in the standings before their game against the Isles?
Will they come away with a win, or will they find themselves a game behind the Islanders for the final playoff spot?
The Caps have struggled to get off to a fast start this season, which has been compounded by the fact that they are coming off a tough loss at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
The Caps have allowed 14 goals in their past two games and have yet to score in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
However, they have won five of their past six games.
Washington’s defense has been one of the reasons they have been so strong, allowing just three goals on 23 shots in that span.
It has been a tough stretch for the team, but they have had some help in that department this season.
On Wednesday, they were able to bring on Nicklas Backstrom, who has a .929 save percentage and a 2.44 goals-against average in three starts.
Backstrom was a late scratch after facing two shots in the first period and a shootout in the second period.
He also gave up a goal on a power play goal in the third.
The team was down 3-0 in the fourth period on the power play and was able to get back on the board with a goal at 14:35 of the second.
That goal put the Caps up 3-2, but the Islanders scored on the Power Play to take a 3-1 lead.
The Caps also had a chance to score on the Islanders in the final minute of the third, but Backstrom stopped a Matt Donovan slap shot from the slot and Matt Read made a great save on Jakub Voracek’s shot that deflected off the back of Backstrom’s skate.
The Capitals had a 4:30 left in the game and needed to make a big save to preserve the lead.
But when the Islanders got the puck back, they put the puck on the boards and Voraceck hit the post for his second of the night.
The goal gave the Caps a 3:33 lead and they were on the brink of taking a 3 1-0 lead at 4:50 of the fourth.
The Capitals have been a different team this season in terms of their goal scoring.
They have scored two goals in five games and only one goal in four games.
On Tuesday night, they scored three goals in a 6-1 win against the New Jersey Devils.
That was the first time they scored at least three goals against a team that had won four of their previous five games.
The Islanders, meanwhile, have been struggling mightily.
They are averaging a meager 17 goals a game and have given up just three in the past five games, including one in a 5-3 loss to New Jersey on Tuesday.
It’s still early, but it’s not looking good for Washington, who have given the Islanders a league-high seven power play goals in the four games they have played.
The Islanders also had two shots on goal in that game.
Washington has scored just five goals in those games.
On the flip side, the Capitals have allowed five goals on 30 shots in their last two games.
The Kings have scored at a slightly higher rate (20.4 percent), but that’s mostly due to their ability to score from behind the net.
The defense has kept the Capitals in check in those two games, and the Kings are only 2-2-0 since losing to the New York Rangers on Saturday night.