The New York Islanders joined the NHL for the 1972-73 season, and in their 48 years in the league, they have been to the postseason 27 times, with a 167-137 playoff record and four Stanley Cup championships. When they take the ice at TD Garden in Boston for their Game 5 matchup against the Bruins, it will mark the 16th time in 58 playoff series that the Islanders will enter the game tied 2-2 with their opponent.
When tied 2-2 after four games, the Islanders have a 9-6 record in Game 5. After securing the victory and taking the series lead, the Isles have gone on to win eight series; their only loss was the 1978 series against the Toronto Maples Leafs in Game 7. The 1993 seven-game series against the Pittsburgh Penguins is the only time in franchise history that New York lost Game 5 and rebounded to win the series.
Whether on the road or at home, the Islanders have a winning record: 4-2 at home and 5-4 as visitors. However, if there is one area of concern, it’s scoring. The team has been outscored 45-42 in these tie-breaking games, but the Bruins should try to avoid overtime where the Isles are a perfect 5-0; only one game went to double overtime and that was this season’s opening-round series against the Penguins. Their rivals from Pittsburgh are the only team to shut out New York in a Game 5 tie-breaker, with a 4-0 win in 2013.
Scrolling Through Long Island History Books
The 2021 Playoffs mark just the third time the Bruins and Islanders have met in the postseason. The Islanders are 2-0, winning the series 4-1 in 1980 and then 4-2 in 1983. That last series was 3-1 in favour of New York after four games, but Boston won Game 5, 5-1, before they were blown out 8-4 in Game 6.
The Islanders have been tied 2-2 with seven different teams in their history (four are repeat competitors): the Penguins in 1982, 1993, 2013, and 2021. The teams have an even split in Game 5 wins, 2-2, but Pittsburgh holds the lead in goals, 15-10. Next up are their cross-town rivals, the New York Rangers. In three matchups in 1979, 1983, 1984, the boys from Long Island are 2-1 with a 13-8 edge in scoring.
New York has matched up twice against the Maple Leafs (1976, 2002) and the Washington Capitals (1985, 2015), with each team splitting Game 5 one game apiece. The Islanders were outscored by both opponents, 7-5 (Maple Leafs) and 6-3 (Capitals) in those situations. Single-time opponents in Game 5 include the Buffalo Sabres (1984), Montreal Canadiens (1984), New Jersey Devils (1988), and Florida Panthers (2016). The only loss amongst those teams was to the Devils in 1988, 4-2.
Win Some Lose Some
One positive stat the Islanders can carry into the visiting dressing room is the Bruins’ record in Game 5 situations. As one of the Original Six, Boston is in their 96th season and making their 74th playoff appearance, second all-time to the Canadiens (85). The Bruins have been in this tie-breaker situation 38 times with a 17-21 record; however, they have outscored their opponents 104-89. In their history, Boston has seen their Game 5 contests go to overtime eight times, with one game going six extra periods in 1933. Overall, the Bruins are 3-5 in overtime.
There is one final statistic that the Islanders might consider to elevate some of the pressure. Boston is 14-11 at home and 3-10 on the road in these tie-breaker games. Yes, the black and gold have a winning record at home, but since winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, their track record has dipped to 2-4 in Game 5. Two of those losses include crucial games in both the 2013 and 2019 Final.
Boston’s goalie Tuuka Rask has been in this situation five times in his career, sporting a 2-3 record with 11 goals against and a save percentage of 0.924. Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who will have to shoulder the bulk of the load again, has a 1-1 record in a tie-breaker situation, with seven goals against and a 0.906 save percentage.
No matter what happens in Game 5 of this second-round series, the momentum will shift. The Bruins are supposed to be contenders, especially given their talented roster and regular-season stats. However, the Islanders are not pushovers. History may be on the visitors’ side at TD Garden, but none of those numbers will matter to this group. They are writing their own story, leaving their mark in the record books, and focusing on keeping Nassau Coliseum open for as long as it takes.
Ryan Gagne is back for his second tour of duty with The Hockey Writers. In 2021 he wrote about the New York Islanders and now will embrace the challenge of covering the Calgary Flames. The best part of this new assignment is Ryan currently lives in Edmonton and will get to see both sides of the Battle of Alberta up close and personal. None of this will make much sense since he was born and raised in New England and the Boston Bruins are his still team.