Bruins Vs. Islanders Playoff Preview: Analysis, Predictions, X-Factors

These two teams match up great against one another

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Round 1 is in the books, and now the Boston Bruins are set to face the New York Islanders.

The B’s and Isles are two of the final eight teams remaining, and they’ll compete over the next couple weeks to get top honors in the East Division and will find themselves one round away from the Stanley Cup Final.

Here’s everything you need to know about Bruins-Islanders.

STATS HEAD-TO-HEAD (REGULAR SEASON)
Goals/Game: Boston 2.93 (13th) | New York 2.71 (21st)
Goals Allowed/Game: Boston 2.39 (4th) | New York 2.23 (2nd)
Power Play: Boston 21.9 percent (9th) | New York 18.8 percent (20th)
Penalty Kill: Boston 86.0 percent (2nd) | New York 83.7 (6th)

SEASON SERIES
— New York won the season series 5-3-0
Jan. 18: Islanders 1-0
Feb. 13: Islanders 4-2
Feb. 25: Islanders 7-2
March 9: Islanders 2-1 (SO)
March 25: Islanders 4-3 (OT)
April 15: Bruins 4-1
April 16: Bruins 3-0
May 10: Bruins 3-2 (OT)

HOW THEY GOT HERE
Bruins beat Capitals in five games
— Islanders beat Penguins in six games

SCHEDULE
Game 1 — Saturday, May 27 at 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 2 — TBA
Game 3 — TBA
Game 4 — TBA
Game 5 — TBA
Game 6 — TBA
Game 7 — TBA

*NESN will have a full hour of pregame and postgame coverage before and after every game.

FORWARDS
Bruins Projected Lines
Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall–David Krejci–Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie–Charlie Coyle–Jake DeBrusk
Sean Kuraly–Curtis Lazar–Chris Wagner

Islanders Projected Lines
Leo Komarov–Mathew Barzal–Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier–Brock Nelson–Josh Bailey
Kyle Palmieri–Jean-Gabriel Pageau–Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin–Casey Cizikas–Cal Clutterbuck

Logan Mullen: The Bruins have the better top six, the Islanders have the better bottom six and overall depth (as I wrote here). But the thing about the Bruins right now is their top six is cooking at perhaps its best rate of the season right now, and Boston is a group of world-beaters when that’s happening.

What keeps me sucked into the Islanders, though, is their bottom six. Both units are just so steady and good, reminiscent of the Danton Heinen-Coyle-Marcus Johansson and Joakim Nordstrom-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari/Chris Wagner bottom six from 2019. That group carried the Bruins, and I can see this Islanders third and fourth lines doing the same.

All told though, I think the talent gap ultimately tilts in the Bruins favor.

Advantage: Bruins

Lauren Campbell: The Islanders’ top line, while talented, certainly has more to give than what we saw in their first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mathew Barzal also didn’t score in the series. Despite the talent New York boasts, Boston’s deeper with forwards while the second line has been on fire.

Advantage: Bruins

Mike Cole: The Bruins and Islanders played three times after the trade deadline. Boston won all three, outscoring the Isles 10-3. It’s not a coincidence that came after the B’s acquired Hall. The former Hart Trophy winner gives the Bruins top-six depth that really can only be matched by a few teams, and the Islanders aren’t one of them. Here’s the other thing: Boston has home-ice advantage, and I like Bruce Cassidy’s chances to win the chess match when it comes to deploying his lines when he’s got last change. It might actually be the defensive prowess of his first line that makes a huge difference in this series. The depth thing does even the fight some, but Boston also gets the edge because of its power-play prowess with those top goal-scorers and playmakers.

Advantage: Bruins

DEFENSE
Bruins Projected Pairings
Matt Grzelcyk–Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly–Brandon Carlo
Jeremy Lauzon–Connor Clifton

Islanders Projected Pairings
Adam Pelech–Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy–Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene–Noah Dobson

Logan: The Bruins have far more playmakers on their defense, as I’ll take Charlie McAvoy and even Matt Grzelcyk over anyone the Islanders have to offer. That said, I think when you look at the collective groups from 10,000 feet, the advantage the Bruins hold is minimal. The Pelech-Pulock combo has really grown and can handle just about any top line. Leddy is a seasoned vet who, with Mayfield, is another pairing that can play tough minutes. Andy Greene is the perfect partner for young Noah Dobson.

But McAvoy is playing at such an absurd level, and the emergence of Connor Clifton has elevated the Bruins’ bottom pairing. For those reasons, I have to go with Boston.

Advantage: Bruins

Lauren: The Bruins have had their defensive depth tested already, and it’s proven to be just fine with Connor Clifton filling in nicely. Yes, not having a timetable for the return of Kevan Miller isn’t ideal, but Charlie McAvoy is playing some of his best hockey. It also helps Boston expects to have Jeremy Lauzon back in the lineup.

Advantage: Bruins

Mike: Again, going back to the trade deadline, the acquisition of Reilly could and should play dividends in this series. He’s good with the puck on his stick, and the Bruins will need that against a ferocious Islanders forecheck. Coincidentally, this matchup for me comes down to what I think Boston’s D-men can do against the New York forwards. Reilly helps in that fight, as does Grzelcyk and McAvoy. If Lauzon can avoid committing costly turnovers when pressured, the Bruins will feel pretty good about their D corps in this series.

There’s also this: McAvoy is far and away the best blueliner on either team.

Advantage: Bruins

GOALIES
Bruins Goaltenders
Tuukka Rask
Jeremy Swayman

Islanders Goaltenders
Ilya Sorokin
Semyon Varlamov

Logan: I’m trying to throw recency bias out the window here. If I don’t, then it’s far and away the Bruins, because Rask has been nails and Swayman showed promise in the regular season, while Varlamov came crashing down in the playoffs, though Sorokin has been a reliable No. 1.

But Sorokin, like Swayman, is one of the NHL’s most exciting young goaltenders. Varlamov is coming off a Vezina-caliber regular season, while Rask had a solid campaign when he was healthy. If going off the regular season, the Islanders would have my vote.

As a result, I’m going to meld the two takes together and say this actually is a push. Soft? Perhaps.

Advantage: Push

Lauren: I know regular-season stats don’t matter when it comes to the playoffs, but as Logan noted above, Sorokin and Varlamov were strong this season. Had Rask not missed time with an injury, I’d give the edge to the Bruins, despite him keeping the B’s in games against Washington. But it’s incredibly close.

Advantage: Islanders (by a centimeter.)

Mike: Logan’s trying not to fall victim to recency bias, but I’m not going to overthink it. Rask is the best goalie on either team, regardless of what happened in the first round or the regular season. But I also think it’s fair to look at the first-round performance, and Rask was simply outstanding, while I do think the Islanders netminders benefit from the system more than Rask. He got better as the series went on, and the majority of Washington’s goals came on deflections or weird bounces. The Caps are a better offensive team than the Islanders, and they scored four goals in the final 206 minutes of the first round, with Rask turning aside 96 percent of the shots he faced. Definitely feels like he’s on 2019-esque (pre-Cup Final) heater.

Advantage: Bruins

X-FACTOR

Logan: Kyle Palmieri— He massacred the Bruins while with the Devils, then went scoreless in three games in Boston after his trade to the Islanders. I mentioned earlier how pivotal the Islanders’ bottom six could be, and if Palmieri returns to torturing the Bruins, it could be, and I don’t think this is hyperbolic, series-altering.

Lauren: Boston’s second line — Taylor Hall, David Krejci and Craig Smith were solid in Round 1 against the Washington Capitals with three goals in five games. But as good as they were, there still is another level to their skill — even Hall said as much about himself.

Mike: Special teams — It’s always a factor, but just look at the first round: The Bruins scored five power-play goals, while the Islanders scored 18 of their 21 goals 5-on-5. Boston has the better power play with a slight edge on the penalty kill, too. There’s nothing overly scientific about it. These teams seem evenly matched 5-on-5, so if the Bruins can continue to cash in on the power play, it might be just enough to make the difference.

PREDICTION

Logan: Bruins in six — I envision this series being six very close games, but the clutch scoring and late-game goaltending has been there for the Bruins, so I’ll go with them.

Lauren: Bruins in seven — It’s going to be a tough series, tougher than the one against the Capitals. The Bruins are a different team since the trade deadline and the team they do have should be enough to take care of the Islanders.

Mike: Bruins in seven — The more talented Penguins team probably would have been a better matchup for the Bruins to exploit. Despite The Athletic’s fancy number-crunching system saying the most likely scenario is Bruins in five, this feels like it’s going to be a slog. The similarities in players and style of play should lead to a really close series, but Boston’s top-end talent gives the Black and Gold a slight edge.

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