The Boston Bruins had no problems with the Washington Capitals, but former Capitals coach Barry Trotz has given them all kinds of fits in the second round. The New York Islanders are one win away from advancing to the NHL version of the Frozen Four and will have the opportunity to end the series on home ice in Game 6 on Wednesday night.
Boston is still the favorite in the -130 range at MyBookie Sportsbook with a total of 5.5, even though the Islanders are at home and have the chance to close out the series. We’ve seen a lot of Boston money hit the market in this series and throughout the playoffs, so we’ll see it if happens again.
The Bruins have to be pretty frustrated with how things have gone in this series. They’ve been the better team at 5-v-5 in a big way, but they are the ones on the brink of elimination. Boston has outscored New York 10-8 at 5-v-5 in the series and has 33 more scoring chances and 12 more high-danger chances. The Islanders do have two more power play goals than the Bruins and those have loomed large in the series.
For Boston, there are a lot of questions that need answers in a hurry. While their full-series numbers show that they’ve been the better team, most of that gap came in Game 1, a 5-2 win for Boston. That game was almost treated like a fact-finding mission by Islanders head coach Barry Trotz. Boston had 35 scoring chances to 11, which makes up a big bulk of the difference between the two teams. The Bruins also had a 12-2 edge in high-danger chances.
Take away that game and this has been a mostly even series. The Islanders only had two high-danger chances in Game 5, but still outscored Boston 3-2 at full strength. Bruce Cassidy took his time in front of the camera to criticize the officiating and it cost him $25,000 to do that. Will the referees give Boston some help or will it backfire on Cassidy?
The one great unknown in this game is Tuukka Rask. Rask has allowed 13 goals on 138 shots in the series for a .906 SV%. Jeremy Swayman actually relieved Rask and finished out the game the other night. Rask is reportedly not 100% healthy, but he’ll need to figure out how to make some big saves for his team if this series is going to continue.
New York Islanders
While Bruce Cassidy blames the officials and others for his team’s faults, Barry Trotz has to be thrilled with how his team has responded in this series. The Islanders were virtually as good or better than the Bruins in Games 2, 3, and 4. The Islanders sat back and played a prevent defense in Game 5 once they got a lead, which nearly backfired, but they played well in the first two periods prior to that.
Going back to Semyon Varlamov has made a huge difference. Ilya Sorokin, the hero of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, was not sharp in Game 1. Sensing the need for a change, Trotz went to Varlamov, who has stopped 146 of 156 shots in this series for a .936 SV%. Even in the loss in Game 3, Varlamov was excellent with 39 saves on 41 shots.
The Islanders return to the benefit of having the last change now. In the two games at raucous Nassau County Coliseum, the Bruins only managed three goals. They had two in Game 3 and one in Game 4. It’s almost as if the Islanders are willing to play more of a wide-open, skill game on the road and a knockdown, drag-out, rough-and-tumble style at home. The way to shut down Boston is to shut down the top line.
Boston’s only goal in Game 4 was on the power play. Brad Marchand had the overtime game-winner in Game 3, but that line was mostly quiet otherwise. Now Trotz has the advantage of the last change again and it could make all the difference.
Bruins vs. Islanders Free Pick
The Bruins look to be the better team on paper and in the metrics, but the Islanders played a bad Game 1 and sat back in prevent defense in Game 5 with a lead. When the games have been close, the Islanders have been equal to the task. Taking a shot on them at home, with what should be a tight, low-scoring style of play isn’t a bad idea, seeing as how that’s how they want the games to be played.
Pick: New York Islanders