By: Spencer Lindsay | Follow me on Twitter @dispencer88
Round two is here! The Bruins learned that their second-round opponent will be the New York Islanders after a 5-3 Islanders win against the Pittsburgh Penguins to take the series in 6 games. The Bruins punched their ticket to the second round a few days prior with a 3-1 win over the Washington Capitals to win that series in 5 games. So, let’s take a look at both teams got here. We’ll look at some quick stats, the head-to-head matchup in the regular season, some need-to-know information on both teams, and my prediction for the series.
The Bruins posted a 33-16-7 record this season, good for 73 points and third place in the MassMutual East division. Boston’s power play was ranked 10th in the NHL over the regular season, converting on 21.9% of their power play opportunities. Their penalty kill was ranked 2nd in the league at 86.0%, only 0.8% behind 1st place Vegas Golden Knights. Heading into the postseason, the Bruins were one of the hotter teams in the NHL with a 12-4-2 record following the trade deadline.
The Islanders in this season had a 32-17-7 record, landing them in fourth place in the division. Their power play was ranked 20th in the NHL, scoring on 18.8% of attempts, and their penalty kill was ranked 6th, successfully killing 83.7% of their penalties. Following the trade deadline, it’s fair to say the Islanders stumbled a little bit, only going 5-6-3 over their last handful of games.
Regular Season Head-to-Head
The Bruins managed a 3-3-2 record in 8 games against the Islanders this season. The 3 Bruins wins all came at TD Garden, while 4 of the Islander’s 5 wins in the season series came at Nassau Coliseum, so it will be interesting to see how home ice factors into this matchup. Especially when you consider that TD Garden will be at full capacity for this series. Most of the games these two teams played against each other in the regular season tended to be tight, physical games, so it would be fair to expect the same in the playoffs.
However, it would be irresponsible to just look at the overall record without adding some context. Before the trade deadline acquisitions of Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar, and Mike Reilly, the Bruins posted an 0-3-2 record vs. the Islanders. However, following the trade deadline, the Bruins went 3-0-0 against the Islanders and outscored them 10-3 in those three games. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues in the playoffs, but it can’t be understated how much Taylor Hall has added to this team in terms of secondary scoring.
Need to Know: Bruins
As previously stated, the Bruins were almost a different team following the trade deadline, much of that owed to adding Taylor Hall to the 2nd line with David Krejci and Craig Smith. Just how much has he added to that line? Take a look for yourself.
As you can see, adding Taylor Hall has improved the scoring punch of the second line in every major category. A significant thing when you remember how reliant the Bruins were on the first line for scoring before Hall coming into the fold. The acquisitions of Lazar and Reilly shouldn’t be overlooked either, as both have really contributed in their respective roles and made this team noticeably more strong. In the playoffs, the Bruins completed a gentlemen’s sweep of the Washington Capitals, with 3 of those 5 games needing overtime.
Need to Know: Islanders
Looking at the Islanders record post-trade deadline (5-6-3), it’s clear to see they did not fare as well. The Islanders picked up Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils, as well as Braydon Coburn from the Ottawa Senators. Palmieri, the headliner of these trades, had a rough start to life on Long Island. Scoring just twice in 17 regular-season games, though he did score 3 goals in the first round against the Penguins. Zajac and Coburn were depth acquisitions, and between the two of them, only Zajac has played in the postseason for the Islanders so far, suiting up for one game in round one. The Islanders beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 6 games in round one; however, it can’t go without mentioning how awful the goaltending was for Pittsburgh throughout that series.
It goes without saying that surrendering 5 goals on an xGA of less than 1 in an elimination game is pretty bad. I don’t think you can look at the Islander’s first-round win without talking about the serious lack of quality goaltending on the part of the Penguins. It’s fair to say that the Islanders will be much more challenged when they have to face Tuukka Rask.
Taking all of this information into account, I think it’s fair to expect a tight series between these two teams. Yes, the Islanders got lucky going up against some terrible goaltending, but they’re also a good and well-coached team. They’re skilled, they’re physical, and they have a good blend of youth and experience. That being said, I think the Bruins are the better team, and the statistics show that as well. It will be a close series, but I think home ice will play a big role, especially with TD Garden being at full capacity. My pick: Bruins in six.