Bruins-Islanders Game 1 Takeaways: Thoughts, Observations On Boston’s Win

The game was far closer than the score indicates

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The Boston Bruins took a 1-0 lead in their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series with a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Here are some takeaways, thoughts and analysis from Game 1:

— This could be a moot point in mere hours if he ends up being fine, but the Craig Smith injury is one worth monitoring. He exited in the second period, was ruled out the rest of the game in the third and Bruce Cassidy didn’t really have an update on the lower-body injury after the game.

Given how the Bruins have practiced, the likeliest scenario for the Bruins would be to have Trent Frederic or Karson Kuhlman draw into the lineup for Smith if he misses any time.

In our eyes, Kuhlman probably makes the most sense. If it were the Capitals, we’d roll with Frederic, but with the way the Islanders forecheck, the Bruins need someone with speed that can handle the puck, and Kuhlman sooner fits that mold.

Going with him also would keep tweaks to the lineup at a minimum. Jake DeBrusk likely would move up to the second line, and Kuhlman would just go to the third line right wing. If they really wanted to keep the disruptions to a minimum, Kuhlman could just take Smith’s second-line right wing spot, as he did that job in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

If the Bruins went with Frederic, the likeliest move would be putting him on the fourth line left wing, then moving DeBrusk up the the second line right wing and Sean Kuraly to the third line right wing. Have we said wing enough yet?

That second line had been rolling so well that losing Smith for any amount of time is an absolute gut-punch. But if that’s indeed the Bruins’ lot in life, then the wisest thing might be to keep changes to other lines at an absolute minimum.

— Bruce Cassidy wasn’t kidding: The Bruins and Islanders really are the same team.

But for a pair of teams known for placing heavy emphasis on defense, both sides play with pretty good pace. That was apparent in the opening period more so than an other point, with both sides looking like they got shot out of a cannon.

And while the score Saturday looked somewhat lopsided, about 46 of the 60 minutes of Game 1 were about dead even. The Bruins held a massive shot advantage, but using the eye test alone it didn’t look like they were just undressing New York in the offensive zone.

The Islanders were expressing little concern after the loss, and they shouldn’t. They definitely didn’t get blown out, and at times were in control of the game.

Ultimately, when you hear it’s going to be a defensive series, you think it might be a snooze-fest unless you’re really into the nuances of the game. That might hold true to a degree, but these teams are fast and play a style that will lead to greasy goals. It’ll likely be close wire-to-wire because they’re just so similar.

— The Bruins need Brandon Carlo to be better. In an uncharacteristically bad first period, Carlo dogged it up ice to get back on a puck, which allowed Mat Barzal to beat him on an icing. He then botched an attempt to clear the defensive zone on a penalty kill, which allowed for Anthony Beauvillier’s goal. By the way, Beauvillier got into the slot basically untouched on his goal because be got behind Carlo.

With Kevan Miller gone, Carlo is one of the Bruins’ only *true* stay-at-home defensemen. The last thing the Bruins need is for him to get caught puck-watching or leaving the net-front wide open or getting his pocket picked by New York’s forecheck.

When he’s on, Carlo is such a stabilizing presence for the Bruins. But right now, he’s making too many mistakes and causing too much work for Mike Reilly.

— Here’s one idea: What if the Bruins try playing Jakub Zboril or Urho Vaakanainen over Jeremy Lauzon?

That’s not to say Lauzon didn’t play well in Game 1. But if the Bruins want to play the matchup game, Zboril might actually be a better fit than Lauzon. Now, this is all predicated on Zboril actually being healthy, as he was hurt late in the season and there’s been little in the way of updates since.

But, again, the Islanders’ forecheck could be the thing that creates the biggest issue for the Bruins. If Boston gets hemmed back in its own zone constantly because there’s not a Reilly or Matt Grzelcyk-type on the third pairing, that could be problematic.

Vaakanainen is a smooth skater who might be able to dance his way out of the pressure. Zboril showed promise as a puck-carrier during the regular season, and he also is a gifted passer. It helps too that he showed a willingness to fire pucks to the net from the point, which might play well against a goalie like Ilya Sorokin.

The obvious hole to poke in such an idea is that a Zboril/Vaakanainen-Connor Clifton combination isn’t exactly a shutdown pairing. It would still be capable enough though to not get completely worked over.

And, if Miller ends up returning to full health and can play again, the Bruins could go with the Clifton-Miller pairing again and probably be fine.

Again, it’s not like the Bruins need to make a move, Lauzon was fine. But after one game, that’s an idea worth kicking around.

Bruins forward Nick Ritchie, Islanders forward Mathew Barzal
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