For the third time in as many seasons, the New York Islanders are headed to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Boston Bruins may serve as their toughest second-round opponent during that span and will give the Islanders all they can handle. Who has the advantage and what are both team’s biggest assets? Let’s dive in.
It’s hard to ignore the Bruins’ perfection line, made up of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. They’ve been a major part of Boston’s success and are a headache for opposing teams. They play so well in the offensive zone and, on top of that, are responsible in their own zone – a double threat that means even more for this team during the playoffs. However, with the addition of Taylor Hall at the trade deadline, the Bruins now boast more of an offensive punch beyond the perfection line.
Hall got to the Bruins and didn’t waste any time, something Islander fans remember all too well. He scored goals in two straight games against the Islanders, and he was just getting started. When it was all said and done, he collected 14 points in 16 games following the trade deadline, after scoring 19 points in 37 games with the Buffalo Sabres to start the season.
In the playoffs, Hall has continued to be an offensive force. Against the Capitals, Hall had three points in five games including an absolutely spectacular goal. Winger Jake Debrusk and defenseman Charlie McAvoy have also had great postseasons so far, collecting three and five points respectively, adding serious depth to the Bruins offense. Add Craig Smith’s great season along with solid all-around team play, and the Islanders will have their hands full.
If you told Islander fans they would make the second round after rookie Iyla Sorokin took over the net from Semyon Varlamov early in the playoffs, they may have not believed you. Sorokin’s spectacular, 48-save performance to win Game 5 in double-overtime and take a 3-2 series lead and, ultimately, lead the team to win the series was hardly what anyone expected when the season began.
Sorokin will need to be the answer for the Bruins‘ potent offense if they plan on winning the series. Their all-around game will need to improve, including finding consistency, but the goaltending will need to continue to be next level if the Islanders expect to have a chance to make back-to-back appearances in the Conference Finals.
Who Has the Edge?
These are two teams with wildly different styles. The Bruins offense is a well-oiled machine, especially since they added Hall to their lineup earlier this season. The Islanders are a defense-first squad with two extremely talented goaltenders at their disposal. Their offense can explode at times but the big question will be if they can keep up with the Bruins.
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The biggest issue beyond if they can keep up will be if the Islanders’ offense can find some consistency. They did end their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins scoring three or more goals in each of the last three games, all victories, but that’s certainly not the norm. They’ve struggled to lead at all during the series outside of their 4-0 win in Game 4 and their 5-3 win in Game 6 to win the series. Sorokin has also stolen the show, giving the Islanders the solid backstopping they needed to withstand the barrage of Penguins forwards pressuring the Islanders’ defense game after game.
It’s a tough series to dissect, but if the last two games the Bruins and Islanders played at the end of the season are any indication, Boston may have the advantage here. The same was said about the Penguins heading into the first round, who went 6-2-0 against the Islanders during the regular season, but the Bruins are a very well-built team, especially their offense and specifically at 5-on-5. Based on their experience and offensive abilities, the Bruins are certainly the favorite. If the Islanders can get solid goaltending and continue to shut down other teams’ top stars, they’ll have a chance.
The Islanders will have their hands full with the Bruins. They’re a highly skilled team with a lot of playoff experience. New York is certainly collecting a lot of their own experience with this crop of players, but it’s tough to compare to what the Bruins have accomplished to this point. The date for Game 1 of the series has yet to be announced, but we’ll all be waiting with bated breath.
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Jon Zella is a 30-year-old Long Island native currently living in Syracuse, NY. Outside of hockey, he enjoys motorcycles, beer, coffee, and his dog Olive.