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Need to Know: Bruins-Islanders | Second Round

Boston and New York to face off in postseason for first time since 1983

by Eric Russo @erusso22 / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - For Bruce Cassidy, it's almost like looking in the mirror.

When he watches the New York Islanders - whether it be in person or on video - he often sees his own team. From strong goaltending, to disciplined and stimy defense, to timely scoring, the Bruins and Isles are cut from the same cloth.

"Very well coached [by Barry Trotz]…they're a patient team, they defend well," said Cassidy. "I think they have a lot of our attributes. They want to be structured, they want to be disciplined, they have good goaltending. Their D, they want to get involved, but they play D first. They have different lines that can hurt you. In that regard, we're playing ourselves a little bit."

As such, the Bruins are expecting their second-round series against the Islanders - the first playoff matchup between the two clubs since 1983 - to be a tight checking, hard-hitting, nail-biting affair.

"I think we saw that in the season series. A lot of tight games, except maybe one or two. But it's really tight checking, structured hockey. I think that's what we're expecting," said Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. "I do agree [with Cassidy], I feel like the systems are somewhat similar, whether it's defensive zone or forechecks and all that stuff. It kind of goes back to what we like to do as well.

"You adapt and you adjust through the course of the playoffs, whether it's one round to the next or also during a series. It's gonna be a lot of that, going back to video, making adjustments from one game to the next. We're expecting a tight and very hard series."

Here's a closer look at the second-round matchup between the Bruins and Islanders:

All Lined Up

Here's how the Bruins are expected to line up on Saturday night:

FORWARDS

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak

Taylor Hall - David Krejci - Craig Smith

Nick Ritchie - Charlie Coyle - Jake DeBrusk

Sean Kuraly - Curtis Lazar - Chris Wagner

DEFENSEMEN

Matt Grzelcyk - Charlie McAvoy

Mike Reilly - Brandon Carlo

Jeremy Lauzon/Jarred Tinordi - Connor Clifton

GOALIES

Tuukka Rask

Jeremy Swayman

Lauzon skated during an optional practice on Friday, the second straight day that he was cleared for full participation after suffering an upper-body injury in Game 1 against Washington. Whether the blue liner will be ready for Game 1 is still to be determined.

"We'll make that decision [on Saturday]," said Cassidy.

Kevan Miller, meanwhile, will not be ready for the start of the series. The defenseman suffered an undisclosed injury on a high hit from Dmitry Orlov in Game 4 against the Caps and has not yet been back on the ice. Miller, however, has been working out at the team facility for most of the week.

"He's not going on the ice [on Friday] so that keeps him out of the lineup in the short term here, but at least he's progressing," said Cassidy.

Video: Lauzon talks to the media after Thursday practice

Opposing View 

Outside of the absence of captain Anders Lee, who has been sidelined since undergoing ACL surgery in March, the Islanders enter the second round fairly healthy.

Oliver Wahlstrom missed the Isles clinching Game 6 victory over the Penguins after being injured on a scary collision with the boards following a hit from Mike Matheson in Game 5. He was replaced in Game 6 by Travis Zajac, who was acquired by the Islanders from New Jersey at the trade deadline. Wahlstrom is considered day-to-day and doubtful for Game 1 in Boston, per Trotz.

New York, which led the division for a lengthy period during the regular season, went 5-6-3 following the deadline, at which point they acquired Zajac and Kyle Palmieri from the Devils.

The Islanders finished the regular season as the fourth seed in the East Division with a 32-17-7 record and 71 points. New York was 21st in goals per game (2.71) and second in goals against (2.23). Their power play ranked 20th (18.8%), while their penalty kill was sixth (83.7%).

In the first round against Pittsburgh - a 4-2 series win - the Islanders were paced offensively by Anthony Beauvilier and Bruins killer J.G. Pageau, who both notched seven points in the series. The Isles second line of Beauvilier, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, as well as Palmieri, all tied for the team lead with three goals apiece.

"The Nelson line had a little more success, but Beauvillier was flying around," said Cassidy. "He has his legs under him. [Mathew] Barzal's line, not as much. But that can change in a hurry, when you have depth.

"Pageau had a good series, but he always does. He's a good player and always plays well against him, he's actually one of their most active players against us. They use him in a lot of different situations, so that's one we'll have to keep an eye on as well."

Video: Cassidy talks lineup, Game 1 against Islanders

Cassidy said the Bruins must be prepared for the Islanders' heavy forechecking game.

"They end up scoring key goals. They're obviously opportunistic when they get chances," Cassidy said of the Islanders' first-round performance against Pittsburgh. "Some of them are very good because they're patient, to get teams frustrated and now they start gambling. They're good at that. They're a heavy forecheck team, they're going to get their hits on the forecheck, so we've got to be prepared for that with our D.

"Anything Tuukka can handle back there to make it easier on the D will be helpful. We know they're coming…make sure we're clean, execute well so we don't have to deal with that. I think that's how they gain momentum. They play behind you and wear you down."

On the back end, the Isles boast plenty of size and strength, led by 6-foot-3, 205-pound Adam Pelech and 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ryan Pulock, who make up New York's top pairing.

"I think they have a lot of size but they're also very mobile," said Bergeron. "They move the puck well, they're good on their retrievals and making that first pass. I think it's not just that top pairing, but all six defensemen play the puck well but seems to be in sync and really stick to the system.

"It's a very structured team defensively. It's no different with the D pairings and how they play the game. It's definitely going to be a challenge. I think our forecheck and our puck placement on our forecheck's gonna be really important."

In goal, 25-year-old rookie Ilya Sorokin took control between the pipes during the first round, winning the final three games and all four contests he played the series, with a 1.95 goals against average and .943 save percentage. Semyon Varlamov was 0-2 in two games with a 3.61 GAA and .903 save percentage.

"We saw it in the first series - two good goaltenders. They had to go to their Plan B [Ilya Sorokin] and he won them all four games. So, it doesn't matter who they put in there, they're going to get good goaltending," said Cassidy.

"If you're going to advance, that's very difficult to do if your goaltender is not one of your best players. I think that's what happened with us, clearly, in the Washington series. Happened for them against Pittsburgh, so that's the other part of their game that's rock-solid right now."

Projected Islanders lineup:

FORWARDS

Leo Komarov - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle

Anthony Beauvillier - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey

Kyle Palmieri - J.G. Pageau - Travis Zajac

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

DEFENSEMEN

Adam Pelech - Ryan Pulock

Nick Leddy - Scott Mayfield

Andy Greene - Noah Dobson

GOALIES

Ilya Sorokin

Semyon Varlamov

This Season 

The Bruins went 3-3-2 vs. the Islanders this season with a 3-0-1 mark at home and an 0-3-1 record on the road. Boston dropped the first five meetings - the first four of which came on Long Island - before winning the final three following the trade deadline. The Islanders outscored the B's by a 21-18 margin, while Boston went 4 for 25 on the power play (16%) and boasted an 85% success rate on the penalty kill 17 for 20).

Boston was outscored by the Islanders, 10-4, in the third period this season, having lost the first four meetings of the year after being tied heading into the final frame. The Isles scored five of those goals on Feb. 28 to turn a 2-2 tie into a 7-2 victory.

"One, we were healthier, I think, than at the start of the year," Cassidy said when asked about what changed in Boston's three victories over the Islanders. "I think there were a lot of games that - no excuses - but were scheduled back-to-back or we were without people. I know that I don't want to judge us at the start of the year against them. I don't know how they're judging their selves against us from the end of the year, when we had more success.

"To me, it's a fresh start for both teams. Both teams are playing well. What are we doing better? Better third periods for one. I think that was a problem up there early in there year…I know in a couple of those games we made critical mistakes that ended up in our net. You learn from those, so obviously we managed the puck better in those last three games.

"I thought we were better on offense in terms of attacking their D and breaking them down and finding some ways to create offense against their bigger D-men. That was below the goal line, some of it was off the rush where we got inside."

The B's trade deadline acquisition of Taylor Hall certainly helped in that regard. Hall had four goals in three games against the Islanders after arriving in Boston, including the overtime winner on May 10. Cassidy believes that Hall's speed made a significant impact in the B's ability to break through the Isles 1-2-2 trap in the neutral zone.

"It'll be interesting to see what they throw at us," said Cassidy. "[Hall's] a guy - we saw it, the last series against Washington - against the Islanders, we've seen him go by guys in traffic, where it doesn't look like there's much materializing and all of a sudden, he comes out the other side with the puck and he's in all alone. And there's sometimes where it doesn't work out.

"We have to sort of let him be Taylor and remind him of, 'OK, there's a time and a place. The score, game situations.' And he's been very good with it. He's got a centerman who reads off him well, so he doesn't have to do it by himself, so to speak. When he does get a head of speed and he's in the right spots, from [David] Krejci or the D - boy, he's dangerous. You can see it; he backs people off.

"Hopefully that's what happens against this defense, where he does back people off, where they eventually respect his speed so much that they lose their gap and now all of a sudden some plays open up in front of the D and you get a little more ice to work with."

Video: Top plays from New York vs. Boston matchup

The Bruins were led in scoring by Brad Marchand (4-3-7) and David Pastrnak (2-5-7). Goaltending was split three ways by Tuukka Rask (2-2-0 in five games), Jeremy Swayman (shutout in one game played), and Jaroslav Halak (0-1-2 in three games).

Pageau led the Islanders in scoring against Boston this season with a 5-3-8 line, with Barzal (3-4-7) and Leddy (0-5-5) right behind.

Varlamov played in seven of the eight games with a 5-1-0 record, a 1.93 goals against average and a .943 save percentage with one shutout against Boston. Sorokin was 0-1-1 in two games with a 2.23 GAA and .921 save percentage. 

January 18 at New York - Islanders 1, Bruins 0

February 13 at New York - Islanders 4, Bruins 2

February 25 at New York - Islanders 7, Bruins 2

March 9 at New York - Islanders 2, Bruins 1 (SO)

March 25 at Boston - Islanders 4, Bruins 3 (OT)

April 15 at Boston - Bruins 4, Islanders 1

April 16 at Boston - Bruins 3, Islanders 0

May 10 at Boston - Bruins 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

"We have a lot of respect for the Islanders, we know it's gonna be a really tight and hard series," Bergeron said when asked about the B's success against the Islanders later in the season. "That being said, when you're in the playoffs, you want to play with some confidence, you want to play with an edge that you need in order to move forward. I thought at the end of the year we tried to build something towards getting into the playoffs, same thing last round.

"That's what we're trying to do, trying to stay in the moment, trying to build our game and enjoy ourselves, but also when the puck drops be ready to go and be mentally sharp and focused.

Video: Hall's overtime winner lifts Bruins over Islanders

Postseason History 

The Bruins are 0-2 in previous postseason series against the Islanders, with the Isles holding an 8-3 edge over 11 games. The Islanders won the Stanley Cup in both seasons that they faced Boston in a playoff series.

1980 Quarterfinals Series - Islanders 4, Bruins 1

1983 Prince of Wales Conference Championship Series - Islanders 4, Bruins 2

Fun Fact: The Bruins (124) and Islanders (124) combined for 248 penalty minutes in the first period of Game 2 of the 1980 series, which remains an NHL record for most penalty minutes by both teams in one playoff period.

Series Schedule

Game 1: Saturday, May 29 at 8:00 p.m. ET (NBC, 98.5)

Game 2: TBA (98.5)

Game 3: TBA (98.5)

Game 4: TBA (98.5)

Game 5: TBA (98.5)*

Game 6: TBA (98.5)*

Game 7: TBA (98.5)*

*if necessary

Video: Bergy and The B's Set and Ready To Go Round 2!

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