Heading into Game 3, the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders’ second-round series is split with one win each. Both games were close, despite the 5 – 2 score in Game 1. In Game 2, the Bruins battled back to tie the game late before losing in overtime.
Both teams are evenly matched, and momentum will play a huge role in determining the outcome of this series. The Bruins do not want to fall behind as the Islanders would be a tough team to try to regain the lead against.
Boston in a similar situation last season in their second-round series versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. They won Game 1, lost a close Game 2, and lost the series in five games. They looked good in Game 1 but got progressively worse as the series went on. Hopefully, that won’t happen again, but here are three things to keep an eye on in Game 3.
Top Line Needs to Continue Elite Play
After a slow start to their series against the Washington Capitals, the Bruins’ first line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand has been on fire. In the first two games of this series, Bergeron and Marchand have one goal and three points each, and Pastrnak has three goals and four points.
Pastrnak is fourth in the NHL in playoff points with 10 in seven games. He trails Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, and Gabriel Landeskog, who are all having a tremendous postseason. Marchand also hit 100 career playoff points in Game 2, highlighting his history of success in the postseason.
The top line is also displaying their leadership qualities in this series. Marchand, an alternate captain along with David Krejci, came to Jeremy Lauzon’s aid during media availability after the 24-year-old made a costly turnover that led to the Islanders’ game-winning goal in overtime in Game 2. He didn’t throw the rookie defenseman under the bus, but rather reinforced that the series isn’t lost yet:
“Yeah, I mean, [stuff] happens. He’s a great player for us, he competes very hard, and he’s out there every night working his butt off and competing for the group. We all make mistakes, we’ve all been there. It’s tough when it happens to you but we’re gonna bounce back.”-Michael Hurley, “Brad Marchand on Jeremy Lauzon’s Overtime Error: ‘[Bleep] Happens’,” CBS Boston, June 1, 2021.
As Game 3 approaches, all three players need to continue to score at this pace. The Islanders are a tough defensive team, and every point is going to be a hard-fought battle. Pastrnak, Marchand, and Bergeron are considered elite talents for a reason. In order to win this series, they need to be the players they have already shown they are capable of being.
The team has benefited from depth scoring help, including a beautiful goal from Charlie Coyle to open the scoring in Game 2. But, the top line needs to continue to dominate this series. If they don’t, the Bruins may be looking at another second-round exit.
Charlie McAvoy Isn’t Messing Around
Charlie McAvoy has been an absolute powerhouse for the Bruins in recent seasons and, this season, he took a step forward in establishing a more well-rounded game. He’s now taken another big step forward in these 2021 Playoffs.
He is a plus-six with seven points this postseason, including scoring the game-winning goal in Game 1 against the Islanders. Six of his seven points have come on the power play; he had eight power-play points in the regular season.
The Bruins’ elite players have shown up in this series, and McAvoy has been the standout defensemen all season and now in the playoffs. He has been the team’s MVP in all seven playoff games so far, and this shouldn’t change as a crucial Game 3 approaches.
On Thursday, expect McAvoy to log 24+ minutes, and the team will need him to show up big on the penalty kill. After a dominant showing against the Capitals, the Bruins struggled on the penalty kill in Game 2. McAvoy improved his special teams play a lot this season, and his playing time on both the power play and the penalty kill increased. He played 8:49 on the penalty kill in Game 4 against Washington.
If the Bruins take undisciplined penalties again tonight as they did in Game 2, then McAvoy will be relied on to keep the puck out of the net. But as we’ve seen, he’ll be ready for any challenge.
Need to Bounce Back
Game 2 was sloppy, there’s no other way to describe it.
Lauzon made that costly mistake that led to the overtime winner. The Bruins couldn’t stay out of the penalty box, giving the Islanders six power-play opportunities, and scored on three of them. Jake DeBrusk received a $5,000 fine for cross-checking Scott Mayfield. It was not a pretty game.
What do they need to do in Game 3? For starters, they need to get the special teams back on track. In last year’s playoffs, the Bruins couldn’t do anything at 5v5. This postseason, they are controlling play at even strength but are struggling to score on the power play, and their dominant play on the penalty kill in the first round has disappeared.
They also need to be more disciplined. They took bad penalties in the Washington series but successfully shut down the Capitals’ power play, so it wasn’t much of a factor. That hasn’t been the case against the Islanders. If things are going well at even strength, keep the game at even strength as much as possible.
We saw how important Game 3 was in the first round. It completely changed the momentum of the series, shifting it firmly into the Bruins’ corner. Boston needs to get back on track to avoid falling into a similar situation.
It Won’t Be Easy
Heading into the playoffs, it was clear the Islanders would be the Bruins’ toughest opponent. They struggled to pull off wins against them throughout the regular season, and Barry Trotz is one of the best coaches in this league, while Kyle Palmieri and Jean-Gabriel Pageau have been thorns in their side.
The Islanders are beatable, though, as we saw in Game 1. The Bruins need their superstars to play like they have been all series, and they need assistance from their depth players. Goaltender Tuukka Rask has been great this postseason, and hopefully, this extra day off will help after some question marks about his health after Monday night’s game.
When the Bruins are playing at their best, they are as good as any team in the league. As always, tonight’s game will come down to who shows up.
Let us know how you think tonight’s game will go in the comments below and stay tuned for more Bruins coverage this postseason.
I’m Hannah Garfield, a graduate of Elon University with degrees in Film and Media Analytics. I’m a lifelong, passionate Boston sports fan and love all things Bruins.