For the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, we have the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins suiting up against each other. The Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six to advance, while the Bruins finished the Washington Capitals off in their Game Five matchup. These two teams met eight times during the regular season, and the Islanders won five of those matches. However, the Bruins won the last three of those matchups, outscoring the Islanders by a 10-3 margin.
Fans might get a duel between Tuukka Rask and Ilya Sorokin. Both goalies were outstanding during the first round, with Rask having a .941 save percentage and 1.81 goals-against average through five games, and through four games, Sorokin had a .943 save percentage and 1.95 goals-against average. The Islanders will need to remember that Rask is a much better player than Tristan Jarry, and it won’t be as easy to score on him. Likewise, the Bruins will need to remember that Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov have been letting goals in, so finding the right spot to put the puck is their best bet against the goalminders.
The Islanders are good in the defensive zone and transition game. To keep the Bruins in check, they will need to force turnovers and keep the neutral zone clogged as they did against the Penguins. The defensemen for the Bruins aren’t that much different. They have a decent forecheck and can utilize players such as Charlie McAvoy to keep the Islanders’ offense on their toes.
The Bruins have the advantage of better stats regarding the power play and the penalty kill in the regular season and playoffs. They also have a better faceoff percentage than the Islanders. The Islanders will need to be patient and disciplined against a Boston team that controls the puck. Winning faceoffs and keeping the control away from the Bruins will go a long way to disrupt Boston’s advantages.
With the addition of Taylor Hall to the team late in the season, new life was breathed into the Bruins offense. The combination of Hall, David Krejci, and Craig Smith gives the Bruins added firepower and might keep the Islanders from focusing so much on Boston’s first line. The Islanders’ offense will need all lines to participate, not just the bottom lines. If the Islanders can get all four lines rolling, they will have the opportunity to keep the Bruins on their toes just like in the regular season. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mathew Barzal were both problems for the Bruins in the regular-season matchups with a combined total of eight goals and seven assists.
The game-breakers in this matchup will be the goaltenders. With both teams decently matched on offense and defense, the goaltending will end up making the difference for one of the teams. The Bruins still have the advantage with Rask in the net. The Islanders will have to hope that Sorokin or Varlamov will become the consistent netminder they need.
Barry Trotz gives the Islanders a slight advantage since he has a Stanley Cup with the Capitals. Bruce Cassidy is not without playoff experience, but he has yet to bring a cup back to the fans in Boston. The coach who will give their team the best advantage to win will be the one who is able to manage their lines and let their players do what they do best.
The teams match up reasonably well when you examine their records and stats. However, Boston has the advantage when looking purely at the stats. They also started to show improvement toward the end of the regular season. The Islanders will keep them on their toes, but if Boston sticks to their game plan, keeping in mind how they won their regular-season games against them, the Bruins will make it out and keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive.
Series Prediction: Boston 4-2
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