It’s unlikely the Bruins keep Mathew Barzal and the rest of the Islanders’ top line at bay for an entire series, but they’re off to a heckuva start.
Boston put the clamps on New York’s top line Saturday night en route to a comfy 5-2 win in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup playoff second-round series. Barzal, who had 45 points in 55 games this year, had one single shot on goal Saturday night.
“We tried to take the puck out (Barzal’s) hands in the neutral zone early, that’s when he’s most dangerous,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy explained after the game. “Obviously in the O-zone, he likes to walk up, so your coverage has to be good on the strong side of the puck and the weak side because he’ll find the open guy. You want to turn him down on his backhand as much as possible.”
New York’s first line, centered by Barzal, mustered just three 5-on-5 shot attempts, per Natural Stat Trick. The second line, Brock Nelson’s line, was able to get eight shot attempts off but was worked over in its own zone, allowing 17 Bruins shot attempts.
“The Nelson line, I think they’ve been very dangerous for that team,” Cassidy continued. “I thought we did a good job with them for the most part in the slot. A lot of good things with our assignments tonight on the defensive side of things. I thought it was a real crisp game in terms of coverage.”
Unsurprisingly, it was yeomen’s work from the Bruins’ first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. The offensive prowess, led by Pastrnak’s hat trick, gets the headlines. But according to Natural Stat Trick, Bergeron and Marchand were on the ice with Barzal for a little more than four minutes. Barzal wasn’t able to even get a single shot attempt off. The Bruins, meanwhile, were able to launch seven pucks at Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin when Barzal was on.
Barzal’s line also saw plenty of Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzlecyk, who were both fantastic on Boston’s blue line.
As for the second line, they also saw plenty of the Bergeron trio as well as the top pairing and were also put in a blender.
Playing responsibly with the puck on their own stick also helped Boston limit New York’s offensive chances.
“Puck management usually plays into chances for the other team, and that’s the other thing: We didn’t turn a lot over and get (Barzal) going the other way,” Cassidy added. “I think previous games (vs. the Islanders), he got some odd-man rushes because we didn’t manage the puck, and we were able to limit that too, (Saturday).”
For one night, at least, the Bruins looked dominant, even against the Islanders’ best. With a head coach like Barry Trotz on the other side, though, don’t be surprised if New York makes the necessary adjustments to free up its best players starting Monday night in Game 1.