There were some heavyweight battles between the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders during the regular season, and now at least four more await us.
The Bruins and Isles are set to meet in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Boston beat the Washington Capitals in five games to advance, while New York needed six games to get past the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The two teams have played one another eight times this season, so they’re plenty of familiarity between the clubs. Allow us to catch you up on any storylines or tidbits about the Isles you might not know.
They are loaded with depth
We’ll just use a couple examples to articulate this.
Example 1: In Game 5 of their series against the Penguins, the Islanders lost exciting young winger Oliver Wahlstrom to an injury. He was unavailable for Game 6, which prompted Travis Zajac was to make his series debut. That’s right, the longtime New Jersey Devil who routinely eclipsed the 40-point mark in a season and was part of the Kyle Palmieri trade actually was a healthy scratch for the first five games of the series. It’s fair to say that he would be in the middle six for most, if not all other teams in the postseason.
Example 2: J-G Pageau, perhaps the most sought-after player ahead of the 2020 NHL trade deadline, has been comfortably situated as New York’s third-line center. He is without question a No. 2 center on the lion’s share of NHL teams, even a No. 1 on some. But so loaded are the Islanders down the middle that he’s behind Mat Barzal and Brock Nelson.
There’s a bit of a battle for the starting goalie job
This isn’t ” Vitek Vanecek vs. Craig Anderson vs. Ilya Samsonov vs. Pheonix Copley.” It’s one of the most exciting young goaltenders (Ilya Sorokin) in the NHL vs. a teammate and countryman in Semyon Varlamov.
It was supposed to be Sorokin’s season. But a hot start for Varlamov, who ultimately was one of the top netminders this season statistically and will show up on some Vezina Trophy ballots, made the vet New York’s No. 1.
Varlamov stumbled early in the series against the Penguins, and Sorokin since has replaced him and been nails. Whoever ends up in net against Boston will have a short leash, if only because there is an incredibly capable backup on the bench.
A member of the 2013 Blackhawks is on their blue line
Nick Leddy was in just his second full NHL season when the Blackhawks went on a tear in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
The defenseman began the campaign at age 22, and was 23 by the time it concluded. He played in every regular-season and postseason game that season, which concluded with Chicago winning the Stanley Cup by stunning the Bruins with a late Game 6 comeback.
Leddy would play just one more season with Chicago before moving on to the Islanders, whom he’s been with since. But safe to say he has some pleasant memories from playing hockey in June on Causeway Street.
Their style is somewhat similar to the Bruins
Bruce Cassidy put it best Thursday by saying the Bruins are playing against themselves a bit with the Islanders, but it’s true.
Both Cassidy and Barry Trotz are coaches who expect their players to play a 200-foot game, where being a sound defensive player will likely offset any offensive shortcomings.
For that reason, expect a series filled with good defense and heavy play on the inside, as it’ll be quite the test of wills to gain position and wreak havoc in front of the net.
They didn’t beat the Bruins as badly as you probably think they did
The Islanders started the season by stymieing the Bruins. In fact, New York won the first five games of the regular-season series. But once healthier and with the additions of Taylor Hall, Mike Reilly and Curtis Lazar, Boston got back on track, winning the final three head-to-head tilts.
All told, the Bruins only were outscored 21-18 by New York during the regular season. In most cases, the Bruins’ wins were more convincing than the Islanders’.
Make of that what you will. But if you hear the narrative in the coming days that New York just had its way with the Bruins all season that’s, well, objectively false.