In this potential first-round matchup preview I well be looking at the New York Islanders. Here is where you can find Parts 1, 2 and 3. It’s unclear how the NHL would decide the final playoff spots with the rest of the regular season in question. If they go by points percentage the Islanders would be the second wild card team. With 80 points the Islanders sit just a point back of the Blue Jackets, who have played two more games. The break in the season could not have come at a better time for the Islanders. Currently on a seven-game losing streak, and going 2-4-4 in their last ten games, the Islanders were quickly falling out of the playoffs. Let’s take a look at how the Bruins and Islanders stack up against one another.
The strength of the Islanders team may be their defensive system, but their forward core is one of the deepest in the league. With top talents like Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, and Anders Lee the Islanders have some serious firepower. The Islanders also have some impressive depth when it comes to scoring with Josh Bailey, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Jordan Eberle all over 40 points on the year. Diving even deeper the Islanders have one of, if not the best, fourth line in the NHL. Injuries have prevented the unit of Casey Cizikes, Matt Martin, and Cal Clutterbuck from being the dominant force they were last season. That line was probably the biggest reason the Islanders beat the Penguins in the first round last year. Their defensive style and physical play are second to none, and they frequently make nights difficult on opposing teams’ top lines. Even with the impressive depth of the forward group they lack the top tier talent to keep up with the Bruins, so the edge goes to Boston.
The Islanders defense has a great mix of youth and veteran leadership. With young talented players like Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech and Devon Toews combined with veterans Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, and deadline addition Andy Green the Islanders are ready for a deep playoff run. This season the Islanders are once again among the best defensive teams in the league, ranking ninth in goals against. On the offensive side, the Islanders defensemen are led by Ryan Pulock, who has 35 points on the year, followed by Devon Toews with 28. With Stanley Cup winners Boychuk and Leddy leading the way, the Islanders have the experience needed to make a deep run. Even with all that I still give the edge to the Bruins. With top shutdown options like Chara and Carlo, along with elite offensive ability in Krug, the Bruin’s defense is just on another level.
Like the Bruins, the Islanders also use a tandem goalie approach. Semyon Varlamov has been their number one most of the year, with a 19-14-6 record to go with a 2.62 goals against and a .914 save percentage. Thomas Greiss has also had a good year, going 16-9-4 with a goals-against of 2.74 and a .913 save percentage. When it comes to the playoffs the Islanders will likely go with whoever is playing their best at the time. Varlamov has a playoff record of 13-13, last playing in the playoffs during the 2013-14 season. For Greiss, his playoff record sits at 5-6 from his run as the starter during the 2015-16 playoffs. Both goalies are capable, but neither is an elite goalie capable of dominating a series. Once again the edge goes to Boston and Tuukka Rask.
I see the Bruins winning this series in six games. Both Islander goalies are capable of stealing a game, and their suffocating defensive scheme could give the B’s offense some issues. However, the Bruins just have too much firepower for the Islanders to try and make this a seven-game series. Unlike the Penguins last season, the Bruins don’t mind a physical series and many players probably prefer it. The biggest factor in the Bruins winning the series will be the talent difference between Rask and the Islander’s goalies. The Bruins offense will have time to figure out ways to score with Rask and the Bruins defense containing the Islanders offense. Don’t forget to keep checking back for any news on when sports might be coming back and some great articles to fill the void until then.
Featured image courtesy of WHDH.com