New York Islanders: How the Isles and Caps are just as close as the standings show

New York Islanders. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
New York Islanders. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders just dropped their first regulation loss of the second half of back-to-back at home to the Capitals. However, these teams are different on paper, yet so close as they play.

The New York Islanders are, by virtue of the fewer games played technicality, in first place in the Metropolitan Division. On the second day or March, that is no small deal. However, what is becoming apparent, barring the Carolina Hurricanes never slowing down, is that the race for the division crown is really a two team show, the Isles and Caps.

Yes, there is an obvious correlation here, Barry Trotz.

Trotz, literally, less than one year ago, was coaching the Capitals. But after digging deeper into what was at first an innocent observation (which is the below tweet), these two teams are way closer than you might think.

How they are different

For starters, let’s get out-of-the-way first how they are different. The Capitals are led by Alex Ovechkin. He has 45 goals, most in the NHL. The Isles leading goal scorer is Anders Lee, he ranks a whopping 59th in the NHL in goals. But, that is about where they differ in terms of talent.

But, they also vastly differ on the Power Play, the Caps convert on the Power Play 22.3% of the time and the Isles just 16.2. However, that sort of offsets in that the Isles kill of 80.3% of their penalties and the Caps 78.3. Overall, the Isles are 24th in the league on the PP% and 13th on the kill. Meanwhile the Caps are 9th and 23rd respectively. Both teams, are far from the league in average in some aspect of their special teams.

How they are similar 

The Capitals have two 20 goal scorers and eight players who have double-digit goals on the season. The Islanders, they too, have eight players who have double-digit goals and two 20 goal scorers on the season.

So, both teams spread the wealth in terms of goals, it’s just the Ovi is the megastar no other team has, but not having a player like Ovi has yet to impact the Islanders based on the Isles getting contributions from everyone.

In regards to team stats, that is interesting too. After Friday’s game, the Islanders and Capitals both have a 34 ROW, three wins in the shootout. Both have seven OT losses, thus the same amount of points.

However, they are close in other things too, they both have 18 away wins, 19 home wins, 37 total wins, and 10 losses against East opponents. The Caps have 31 points against the West, while the Isles have 32 points against the West this season. In addition, both teams have more than 10 wins against the Metro Division. Also, each have one OT loss vs the Pacific Division opponents.

In terms of face off win %, both teams rank in the bottom four of the NHL, Isles are 28th in the league at 47.9% and the Caps are dead least in the league in that department with a lowly 46. Both teams also rank in the bottom quarter of the league in shots per game, with the Caps at 30.0, 22nd in the league and the Isles at 28.3, 30th in the league.

To compare these two just to the rest of the league, to help show how uncommon having this many similarities are, out of the top 12 teams based on points in the league, only the Isles and Caps share the same ROW and OT for all teams that are ranked next to each other. It is not common this year to share the same numbers in those columns.

What this tells us. 

The Isles and Capitals are two very good teams who get solid production from all four lines and have a Captain who leads the team in goals. They are also both very good at home and on the road and their point totals are not skewed in one place.

What it also tells us is there are very similar trends in Power Play numbers. They are also similar in how they fare in shootouts and overtime.

While Barry Trotz actually did/does coach both of these teams, it is almost like he is coaching both of them right now, that is how close they are in almost every team stat and everything in the standings.

This season, against each other, perhaps the best measure of who is better, the Capitals have won twice out of three times. None of their games against each other went into OT and the Isles are the only team with a shutout in the series.

So, this will be a battle all the way until the end of the season. I think it very well could come down to a freaking goal differential tie breaker or something (which thankfully the Isles’ +33 is better than Caps’ +17) because even ROW could stay the same.

Get your popcorn ready

The best part is, if things do stay this close, it could come down to game 82 for each time to decide it. Each team’s game 82 is against each other on April 6. That could very well be for the Division.

The best part is, this is a real battle for the division, you can watch these team side by side, or against each other and see how close they are. Their games almost mirror, in more than one way.

Must Read. The actual reasons the Isles don't need "him". light

Crazy. This is going to be fun, hopefully it all holds up.

*all stats/standings are prior to all NHL games on Saturday, March 2, 2019*