As they were in the first round, the Boston Bruins will be among the first two teams to drop the puck in the second round of the 2021 NHL Playoffs, as their series with the New York Islanders begins on Saturday.
The Bruins were favored against the Washington Capitals entering their first round series despite being a lower seed. After an injury to Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek, Boston rolled past Washington, taking the series in five games.
Meanwhile, the Islanders were underdogs against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the stellar goaltending of Ilya Sorokin and timely offensive outbursts saw New York eliminate the Pens in the first round for the second time in three seasons.
In this Bruins vs Islanders series preview, I’ll break down all you need to know before Boston and New York take the ice, along with a winning pick for who will advance in the 2021 NHL Playoffs.
Bruins vs Islanders Series Schedule
GAME ONE: Saturday, May 29, 8:00 P.M.
GAME TWO: Monday, May 31, 7:30 P.M.
GAME THREE: Thursday, June 3, 7:30 P.M.
GAME FOUR: Saturday, June 5, 7:15 P.M.
GAME FIVE*: Monday, June 7, TBD
GAME SIX*: Wednesday, June 9, TBD
GAME SEVEN*: Friday, June 11, TBD
* = if needed, all times Eastern
Bruins vs Islanders Regular Season Results
January 18: Islanders 1, Bruins 0
February 13: Islanders 4, Bruins 2
February 25: Islanders 7, Bruins 2
March 9: Islanders 2, Bruins 1 (SO)
March 25: Islanders 4, Bruins 3 (OT)
April 15: Bruins 4, Islanders 1
April 16: Bruins 3, Islanders 0
May 10: Bruins 3, Islanders 2 (OT)
Tuukka Rask: 4-0-1, 1.81 GAA, .941 save percentage (regular season: 15-5-2, 2.28 GAA, .913 save percentage, two shutouts)
Jeremy Swayman: No Playoff Stats (regular season: 7-3-0, 1.50 GAA, .945 save percentage, two shutouts)
Jaroslav Halak: No Playoff Stats (regular season: 9-6-4, 2.53 GAA, .905 save percentage, two shutouts)
Ilya Sorokin: 4-0-0, 1.95 GAA, .943 save percentage (regular season: 13-6-3, 2.17 GAA, .918 save percentage, three shutouts)
Semyon Varlamov: 0-2-0, 3.61 GAA, .903 save percentage (regular season: 19-11-4, 2.04 GAA, .929 save percentage, seven shutouts)
Steven Kampfer – hand surgery, expected return: September 2021
Ondrej Kase – upper body, expected return: September 2021
Jeremy Lauzon – hand, expected return: May 29
Kevan Miller – head, expected return: TBD, out for Game One
John Moore – hip surgery, expected return: September 2021
Jakub Zboril – upper body, expected return: May 29
Michael Dal Colle – undisclosed, expected return: TBD, out for Game One
Anders Lee – knee surgery, expected return: September 2021
Oliver Wahlstrom – undisclosed, expected return: TBD, doubtful for Game One
Power Play: 26.3% (5/19), fifth in playoffs, (regular season: 21.9%, 10th in NHL)
Penalty Kill: 85.7% (18/21) tied for fourth in playoffs (regular season: 86.0%, second in NHL)
Power Play: 18.8% (3/16), ninth in playoffs, (regular season: 18.8%, 20th in NHL)
Penalty Kill: 75.0% (9/12), 11th in playoffs, (regular season: 83.7%, sixth in NHL)
Check out our free Daily NHL Picks throughout the playoffs!
Bruins vs Islanders Storylines
Both the Bruins and Islanders were considered frontrunners for Taylor Hall at the trade deadline. Boston ended up getting the deal done, and the offense has taken off since then. Hall had eight goals and six assists in 14 games in the regular season, along with two goals and one assist in the playoffs.
Ilya Sorokin and Tuukka Rask rank third and fourth, respectively, in postseason save percentage. Each has played multiple overtime games in the playoffs as well, indicating scoring may be at a premium during this series.
Sorokin has taken over the starter’s net from Semyon Varlamov, who was injured late in the season and did not play well when he returned. However, Varlamov had a phenomenal season; his seven shutouts were tops among NHL goaltenders this year. If the Isles have to turn back to Varlamov in net, they should be comfortable with their goaltending tandem.
Playoff Anthony Beauvillier has returned. With three goals and four assists in six games, Beauvillier is 25 percent of the way to his regular season point total (28), which he reached in 47 games. He is tied with Jean-Gabriel Pageau (one goal, six assists) for the team lead in postseason points.
Boston’s leading regular season scorer, Brad Marchand, has three goals in the playoffs, tied with Patrice Bergeron for the team lead. However, with no assists, he is tied with six other Bruins for fourth in points. David Pastrnak leads all Boston skaters with six points (two goals, four assists).
Islanders leading regular season scorer Mathew Barzal (17 goals, 28 assists in 55 games) has been held out of the goal column in the playoffs so far but has managed three assists. Barzal has gone 13 straight playoff games without a goal, the longest streak of his career.
This series marks the third time the Bruins and Islanders met in the playoffs. The Islanders beat the Bruins 4-1 in the 1979-80 playoffs and 4-2 in the 1982-83 playoffs. New York went on to win the Stanley Cup in both of those seasons during their run of four consecutive Stanley Cup wins.
This series almost certainly comes down to goaltending. With two elite defenses and a slew of stars who can put the puck in the net, the biggest test will be on Rask and Sorokin.
While Sorokin’s play has been impressive so far, he was the starter in net for two of the three losses to Boston this season. As Boston’s offense has improved, Sorokin’s game will need to improve that much more to stay ahead.
Beyond that, I think it will be more difficult for the Islanders to score against Boston than against Pittsburgh. The Penguins allowed almost 0.4 goals per game more than the Bruins this season; while that seems like a small difference, that gap shot up to 1.5 in the playoffs.
Boston has allowed less than half as many goals (10) as the Islanders scored (21) in the first round, and they did so against what is, on paper, a better offense in the Washington Capitals. Washington scored the fourth-most goals in the league this season at 188; the Islanders were 21st at 152, the second-lowest total of any playoff team. The only lower team, Nashville, was eliminated by Carolina in the first round.
With a nearly identical roster to last year, when they advanced to the Eastern Conference finals and lost to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders certainly have the ability to upset Boston in this series. However, I think Boston is the better team right now and will advance to the semifinal round.
SERIES PREDICTION: Boston Bruins in Six Games.
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