No. 3 Boston Bruins vs. No. 4 New York Islanders
Bruins: 4-1 to win Stanley Cup First Round against No. 2 Washington Capitals; 33-16-7, 73 points in regular season
Islanders: 4-2 to win Stanley Cup First Round against No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins; 32-17-7, 71 points in regular season
Season series: BOS 3-3-2; NYI 5-2-1
Game 1: Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, TVAS)
The Bruins and Islanders will play each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time and first since 1983, when New York won the best-of-7 Wales Conference Final in six games on the way to winning the last of four straight Stanley Cup championships.
Boston is in the second round for the fourth straight season; New York is in the second round for the third straight season.
“I think they have a lot of our attributes,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Thursday. “They want to be structured. They want to play with discipline. They have good goaltending. Their [defensemen] play, they certainly get involved, but they want to play D first. They’ve got different lines that can hurt you. So in that regard, we’re playing ourselves a little bit.”
The Islanders won the first five of the eight regular-season games between the teams in the MassMutual East Division before the Bruins won the last three. The three Bruins victories came after they acquired left wing Taylor Hall from the Buffalo Sabres in a trade April 12 to strengthen their forward depth behind their vaunted top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
With Hall scoring 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 16 regular-season games, Boston went from scoring 2.72 goals per game before the trade to 3.41 goals per game afterward, then averaged 3.20 goals per game in the first round against Washington. After getting past a potent Penguins team that included Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Jeff Carter, the Islanders expect to have their hands full defensively again.
“We’re going to have a big challenge with the Boston Bruins,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “They’re playing very, very well. As you saw, they played the Capitals, and they’ve got some game-changers there too in that [first] line and then they’ve really added to that second line (Hall, David Krejci and Craig Smith). They’re a deep team that plays the right way, and it will be an event for both teams.”
Bruins: Pastrnak didn’t score on 19 shots in the first three games against the Capitals. But the right wing had a goal and an assist in each of the last two games and finished the series with a Boston-high six points (two goals, four assists). Pastrnak returned from offseason hip surgery to score 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 48 games in the regular season.
Islanders: Though Mathew Barzal had a mostly quiet first round against the Penguins with three assists in the six games, he had some dazzling moments creating scoring chances in Game 6 and might be on the verge of breaking through. The center led New York with 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 55 games during the regular season and scored 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 22 playoff games during its run to the Eastern Conference Final last season.
Bruins: Tuukka Rask was a difference-maker against the Capitals with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. Limited by an upper-body injury, Rask was 15-5-2 with a 2.28 GAA, .913 save percentage and two shutouts in 24 regular-season games. Rookie Jeremy Swayman (7-3-0, 1.50 GAA, .945, two shutouts in 10 games) will continue to back up Rask after passing former Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak (9-6-4, 2.53 GAA, .905, two shutouts in 19 games) on the depth chart when Halak missed three weeks in April because of a positive test for COVID-19.
Islanders: In the first round, rookie Ilya Sorokin became the 10th goalie in NHL history to win his first four playoff games; he was 4-0 with a 1.95 GAA and a .943 save percentage. Sorokin (13-6-3, 2.17 GAA, .918, three shutouts in 22 regular-season games) started Game 1 against Pittsburgh with Semyon Varlamov injured and played the final three games of the series after Varlamov struggled (3.61 GAA, .903) in losing Games 2 and 3. But don’t be surprised if Varlamov, a contender to be voted the Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s best goalie in the regular season (19-11-4, 2.04 GAA, .929, seven shutouts in 36 games), gets a chance in this series.
Numbers to know
Bruins: Marchand scored three goals in five games in the first round and has scored 98 playoff points (40 goals, 58 assists) in 126 games since 2011, the fourth-most points in the NHL over that span behind Crosby (109), Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning (106) and Malkin (101).
Islanders: The Islanders won the final three games against the Penguins despite being outshot 117-78. Their shooting percentage of 11.2 percent in the series (21 goals on 187 shots) was up from 9.4 during the regular season.
Bruins: Jake DeBrusk had an inconsistent regular season with 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 41 games after scoring 35 points (19 goals, 16 assists) in 65 games last season. But the forward played well in the first round, scoring three points (two goals, one assist), and formed an effective third line with Nick Ritchie and Charlie Coyle. DeBrusk has scored 26 points (16 goals, 10 assists) in 54 playoff games.
Islanders: Jean-Gabriel Pageau led New York with eight points (five goals, three assists) against Boston in the regular season, playing all eight games, and tied Anthony Beauvillier for the Islanders lead with seven points (one goal, six assists) in the first round. The center elevates his play in the postseason; he has scored 21 goals in 63 playoff games, an average of .33 per game, up from his regular-season average of .21 per game (103 goals in 489 games).
They said it
“The Islanders play a really physical game, a really hard team to play against. They’re going to finish their checks and they’re going to work every shift. I think it’s going to be a good test for us.” — Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon
“Obviously, they’re playing some good hockey. They beat a really good team. We beat a really good team. It’s going to be another fun series to be a part of.” — Islanders forward Travis Zajac
Will win if …
Bruins: They continue to get balanced scoring. The line of Marchand (three goals), Bergeron (three goals) and Pastrnak (two goals) was productive against Washington, but Boston also got goals from six other players in the series, including Hall (two), DeBrusk (two), Coyle (one), Ritchie (one), Smith (one) and Matt Grzelcyk (one).
Islanders: Sorokin and/or Varlamov at least match Rask’s performance in net. Sorokin was superior to Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry (2-4-0, 3.18 GAA, .888 save percentage) in the first round, but New York is likely to face much better goaltending from Rask. If it’s more difficult for the Islanders to score, Sorokin can’t have his play drop off.
How they look
Bruins projected lineup
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall — David Krejci — Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie — Charlie Coyle — Jake DeBrusk
Sean Kuraly — Curtis Lazar — Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk — Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly — Brandon Carlo
Jeremy Lauzon — Connor Clifton
Scratched: Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman, Greg McKegg, Oskar Steen, Jack Studnicka, Jarred Tinordi, Urho Vaakanainen, Jack Ahcan, Callum Booth, Jaroslav Halak, Dan Vladar
Injured: Ondrej Kase (upper body), Jakub Zboril (upper body), , Kevan Miller (undisclosed), Steven Kampfer (hand surgery)
Islanders projected lineup
Leo Komarov — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Kyle Palmieri — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Travis Zajac
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy — Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene — Noah Dobson
Scratched: Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston, Braydon Coburn, Cory Schneider, Austin Czarnik, Andrew Ladd, Kieffer Bellows, Sebastian Aho, Thomas Hickey
Injured: Oliver Wahlstrom (undisclosed)