Last Shift in Game 3 Sums Up the Caps-Islanders Series

Posted August 16, 2020

(Caps Outsider)

With the puck on his stick and no defenders to beat, Jakub Vrana had the chance to cut the series to 2-1 and buy the Caps some time to fix their problems. But instead of turning the momentum for the Caps, Vrana missed, and the Islanders converted on a breakaway of their own shortly after.

This overtime shift, in many ways, sums up the series so far, as New York now leads 3-0. But even with their overall lackluster play, a bounce there, a play here, could have given the Caps some life. I think of plays like Ovi’s shanked shot on the open net in Game 2, Braden Holtby’s Game 1 turnover, Vrana’s Game 3 overtime breakaway, and at least two other breakaways in the first two games. If those plays turned out in the Caps’ favor, this series is different. Meanwhile, the Islanders are playing well AND benefitting from the Caps missing their slam-dunks.

While teams rarely win playoff series through these breaks alone, they’re still critical to a long playoff run. The Caps had every reason to be eliminated in the first round against Columbus in 2018, and losing three straight games in the playoffs – like the Caps did in 2018 against Tampa Bay – usually guarantees a series loss.

If overall play is any indication, the Caps don’t deserve those breaks at all. Yet, the Hockey Gods sometimes penalize teams for playing well. How many times have the Caps exited the playoffs while dominating play? I can think of one or a dozen examples.

Assuming the Caps lose this series, as most teams do when down 3-0, then at least go down swinging. Make the Islanders earn every opportunity without botching your own, and give fans a reason to look forward to next season.