Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 Preview: Boston Bruins vs New York Islanders
Thank goodness, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing! Our latest matchup in the East Division finds the supremely talented Boston Bruins against the gritty and hardworking New York Islanders. This will be one of the most interesting matchups to dissect, as the Islanders have put together a Jekyll and Hyde sort of performance all throughout this season. Sometimes, they are a structured and balanced juggernaut whose speed and physicality will take down almost any team. Other times, their lack of high-end talent becomes glaringly apparent as they can get outplayed and pinned in their own end for extended periods of time. Once again, this Islanders defense will have their hands full as the Bruins boast firepower and heart on all 4 lines. In particular, Taylor Hall is back to his best after getting traded out of Buffalo, as he torched the Islanders in the regular season after getting traded to Boston. Barry Trotz and Bruce Cassidy will also provide an intriguing coaching matchup, so let’s see who Vendetta thinks the East Division champion will be.
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This should come as a little surprise. Outside of the Bruins’ perfection line of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak, the B’s have talent all across their forward lines. As mentioned earlier, the resurgent Taylor Hall is one of the main names Barry Trotz will have his players focus on throughout the series, with the Canadian scoring 4 goals in the 3 times he faced the Islanders as a Bruin in the regular season. Particularly on the power play is where the Bruins can do some serious damage. Furthermore, there is a Stanley Cup pedigree sprinkled throughout the lineup. Bergeron, Marchand, and David Krejci were all key contributors in Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup victory, and many other names remain from their trip to the Final back in 2019. It goes without saying that this is a hungry bunch, looking to finally win it all after 2019’s heartbreak and underperforming in the bubble last year. For the Islanders, there is talent in that lineup, but it all depends on if they can put it together. New York’s second line of Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, and Josh Bailey lit up the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, but they are going to need to stay hot for the Islanders to have a chance. As well, if Mathew Barzal and the Islanders’ top line can start clicking, then it could be quite a different series. Trotz will also give no shortage of ice time to the “Identity Line” of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, and Cal Clutterbuck. Both teams will not be afraid to throw their weight around and get physical, adding another layer to this interesting series.
On paper, the Bruins might not have the most talented backline, but they have come together at the right time. The departures of both Torey Krug and former Captain Zdeno Chara appeared to have left the Bruins very thin at the back, but names like Connor Clifton and Mike Reilly have come in and immediately started producing. However, the gap here is not as wide as for the offenses. The Isles’ top pair of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech has stood out as one of the best in the league, and Nick Leddy has also had a bounce-back year. Noah Dobson is also a name to watch, as the 2018 first-round pick has developed and settled nicely into the third pair with veteran Andy Greene. It is more of a crapshoot, but the Bruins deserve the edge for how they dismantled the Washington Capitals’ offense in five games. In the first round, the Pens’ offense seemed to give the Islanders fits at moments, so there is no telling what this Bruins squad can do to them.
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Both Tuukka Rask and Ilya Sorokin have emerged as two of the best goalies this postseason. In particular, Sorokin’s performances against the Penguins have made it more than worth the 7-year wait for him to come over to North America. It was expected that there would be a competition in net, but the 25-year-old has already been passed the torch from his countryman Semyon Varlamov. One of his best outings came in Game 5, where he singlehandedly kept the Islanders alive in their double-overtime win in Pittsburgh by making 48 saves and setting the Islanders rookie record for shots stopped in a playoff game. After some shaky performances in recent postseasons, it looks like Tuukka Rask has turned a corner and gone back to his dominant best. He fearlessly took on the Capitals high-powered offense and left his best for the closer in Game 5. Rask stopped 40 out of 41 shots against a desperate Caps squad as the Bruins took it 3-1. Both goalies will have to be at their best in order for their teams to advance. Sorokin specifically will have many eyes on him, as he joined a short list of goalies to ever win their first 4 career playoff starts.
As great as Bruce Cassidy has been for this Bruins team, Barry Trotz is simply a man you should not bet against. Even with inferior rosters like the Islanders, he has simply got it done in the playoffs. This is nothing against Cassidy, but if you switched both coaches, then the Bruins would probably have won another Stanley Cup by now with Trotz at the helm. I could even tell you as an Islanders fan that this team should not be in the playoffs, but Big Bad Barry always has them punching above their weight. Anyone with a brain should know that he has been the Isles’ best coach since the legendary Al Arbour, and Trotz will soon take a place of his own in the Hall Of Fame when it is all said and done. His team-first and defensive style give New York a shot to win in every single game they play, with a couple of their games against the Penguins prime examples of that.
Prediction: Bruins in 6
There is no doubt that the Islanders will put up a fight against the Bruins, but the B’s are simply a superior team. Their scoring ability combined with strong defense and goaltending will have the Islanders in trouble, especially if New York’s firepower doesn’t show up. If they set the tone in Game 1 at Boston, I could see the series ending even earlier. Of course, we should also be prepared for the Islanders to come out and silence the critics, as they have done time and time again. Bias aside, my neutral take on this series has the Bruins winning, and it will more than likely be in less than 7 games. As loud and rambunctious as Nassau Coliseum will be, it shouldn’t be a shock if the Boston Bruins are the ones to close its doors for good.
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