The Boston Bruins will meet the New York Islanders in the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This marks the third playoff meeting between the two – and the first since 1983, back when the Islanders won the Wales Conference Final in six games.
In the regular season, New York won five of eight meetings between the two. The Bruins snuck in the door for the last three.
Both teams pulled off upsets in the opening round, with the third-seeded Boston squad handing the Washington Capitals a loss and the Pittsburgh Penguins falling to the Islanders in six.
The Bruins cruised into the playoffs on a 12-4-1 run from the trade deadline, when the acquisition of Taylor Hall kicked them into high gear. The deadline hire scored eight in the final 16 games, boosting his squad to average of 3.41 goals per game. With him in the fold for the playoffs, Boston averaged 3.20 goals per game against the Capitals.
Stopping the Hall-fired offence will give the Islanders a lot to think about, but they’ll respond the way they always do and play the system.
Against the Penguins, New York allowed 34.88 shots against per game. That’s not ideal. You have to imagine head coach Barry Trotz wants to cut those down significantly against a deep Boston club.
Not for nothing, but these Islanders scored 3.5 goals per game in the first round against the Penguins and delivered the goods with a 11.1 shooting percentage that made Tristan Jarry look like he was battling the biscuit. That offensive push could trouble the Bruins.
But it comes back to Hall and that Boston depth, doesn’t it?
Hall and David Krejci are lethal on the rush and give the Islanders fits in their own end. Don’t count David Pastrnak out. He didn’t score on 19 shots in his first three games against Washington, but the riddle was solved in the last two games as he found his edge.
The Islanders will counter with Mathew Barzal up front. He didn’t exactly excel against the Penguins, with just three assists in the series, but his skill level is indisputable and he could be due a breakout.
Anthony Beauviller scored in three of six games against Pittsburgh. Setting him up with Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson has been the right choice for Trotz’s squad.
Boston’s Tuukka Rask had a great series against Washington, putting up a 1.81 goals against average with a .941 save percentage.
Meanwhile, New York’s Ilya Sorokin put on a show. He became just the 10th netminder in league history to win his first four playoff games, posting a 1.95 goals against average with a .943 save percentage. He stepped into the void with Semyon Varlamov injured and took the gig with his stellar play.