The Islanders take care of business in six games once again and are back in the ECF.
The New York Islanders are headed to the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second-straight season.
The underdogs against a dangerous Boston Bruins team, the Islanders grew more confident and more dangerous themselves as the series progressed, allowing them to put the nail in the coffin in game six.
The Islanders showed off their own depth as well as the versatility of their players in this series. So how exactly did they send this lethal Bruins team home in such a dominant fashion?
The top line
We’ve extensively discussed the fact that the Islanders’ top line came up short in the Pittsburgh series. That was far from the case against the Bruins. Leo Komarov did pretty well, but Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle, Barzal especially, are the real story.
I won’t spend too much time on Barzal. Here’s a link to my piece that examines the way he’s stepped up in this series: https://elitesportsny.com/2021/06/09/mathew-barzal-is-stepping-up-for-the-islanders/
In short, Barzal is the face of this team and actually played like its best player against Boston. After recording just three assists in round one, he did that again but added three goals, this time around. He’s a key reason why the Islanders were able to dominate and will be moving on.
Of course, Eberle deserves praise, as well. He scored a goal and four assists and was one of the team’s best players on more than one occasion this series.
Eberle has proven to be very important to his team come the postseason and he showed why against Boston. This is how he and Barzal must play, especially since they are the ones expected to lead the charge in their quest to win it all.
The top line deserves praise, but the Islanders’ second line has gone above and beyond, once again.
Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, and Josh Bailey were outstanding against Pittsburgh and were a key reason why the Islanders emerged victorious from that series.
It was unlikely that they’d be able to play as well against Boston, but that’s basically what they did. Beauvillier scored a goal and three assists, Nelson three goals and one assist, and Bailey two goals and three assists.
The “Killer B’s” are just that and were instrumental in helping their team make it out of yet another playoff round.
This is arguably one of the most clutch lines in hockey and deserves infinite praise for the way they’ve stepped up both at even-strength and on special teams.
A more in-depth piece about the members of the Islanders’ third line is on the way, but their contributions in this series must be addressed here, at least briefly.
Kyle Palmieri, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Travis Zajac did so much for their team and were one of the Islanders’ most significant x-factors.
Palmieri is coming off a strange regular season. He struggled after joining the Islanders at the trade deadline and did score three big goals for them against Pittsburgh, but wasn’t especially impactful otherwise.
Boston, whom he killed this season, was another story. With four goals and two assists, Palmieri tied for the team-lead in points in this series. He finally came around and produced how he was expected to.
Last year’s deadline acquisition, Pageau, was also excellent. He, too, had six points this series. Pageau has been praised for his ability on special teams, but he was pretty great at even-strength in this series, too.
After an unspectacular Penguins series, this line stepping up in an even greater challenge was relieving for the team and the fans.
In our Pittsburgh series recap, we looked at Nick Leddy and Scott Mayfield and praised them for being the team’s best defensive pairing. Another surprise defenseman joins the list after the Bruins series: Noah Dobson.
Dobson showed off his offensive and defensive skills. He recorded an impressive five assists and held his own defensively, as well. After game two, the Islanders did not concede a goal when Dobson was on the ice.
Dobson as well as his linemate, Andy Greene, had a rough series against Pittsburgh and gave up many shots and just a lot of offense, in general.
I noted in my series preview that New York’s top-four defensemen would have to step up big time against Boston because Greene and Dobson are defensive liabilities.
Greene wasn’t spectacular this series, but Dobson was arguably the team’s overall best defenseman. Having the little guys like Dobson step up is what allows teams like the Islanders to make deep playoff runs.
The Pittsburgh series was all about the rookie Ilya Sorokin. He was just spectacular. Heading into the Boston series, the net was his to lose.
He wasn’t terrible in game one but did give up five goals, prompting Barry Trotz to turn to his seasoned veteran, Semyon Varlamov.
Varlamov wasn’t perfect, but did more good than bad and looked so much better than he did in the two games he played against Pittsburgh. He’s looked like the Varlamov that we saw during the regular season, one of the best goaltenders in the league.
Varlamov didn’t have to carry as much of a load as Sorokin did against the Penguins, but his performance in net night-in and night-out deserves praise. After all, teams don’t win this often without good goaltending.
The Power Play
A defensive-minded team, the Islanders had one of the best penalty kills in hockey during the regular season and a below-average power play.
I’ve noted that the Bruins have both an elite power play and penalty kill and that the Islanders would have to rely heavily on their PK in order to get past Boston. The opposite ensued.
The Islanders successfully killed only about half of the Bruins’ PPs, but scoring power play goals of their own was key to New York’s triumph. They boasted a whopping 37.5 PP%, getting goals and assists on the man-advantage from practically everyone.
We’ve known that the Islanders are capable of scoring on the power play, it was just a matter of “would they?”. That they did against the Bruins, who were less than impressive while short-handed.