– The New York Islanders are calling tonight’s matchup against the Bruins at Nassau Coliseum a test – a test to see how well they can perform against one of the East’s elite teams.
The Islanders are 13th in the Eastern Conference and come into the game having lost three of their last five, while the Bruins enter the contest fourth in the East, riding a three-game winning streak.
Islanders’ Head Coach, Jack Capuano, didn’t hide the fact that the Bruins pose some problems for his squad.
“Quite a bit,” Capuano said bluntly, when asked what concerns him about the Bruins. “You look at them, they’re a team – this is a good test for our team. [The Bruins] are as deep as you can be as an organization. They’re top six back there obviously is solid. Their top nine and their fourth line grinds it out as well.
“In all areas, they’re solid. They’re a very well-structured team that plays hard. We have to be able to make sure that we withstand their intensity. We have to match that because they have quickness up front too. We have to make it a 200-foot game, we can’t make it a short track against these guys. Our puck management, our decision making will be key tonight.”
One bright spot for the Islanders has been forward John Tavares, who has emerged as one of the NHL’s top scorers this season, ranking third in the league in points (25), behind only Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby. Tavares is tied with Stamkos for the league lead in goals, with 13.
“He’s been a phenomenal goal scorer,” said Tavares’s linemate Matt Moulson. “He’s been a playmaker since he was young and he continues to work hard day in and day out, on the ice, off the ice. He’s one of the elite players in the world right now.”
Tavares may have the talent to take over a game offensively, but the center acknowledged he is going to need some help tonight, breaking through the Bruins defensive system.
“You can’t try and do too much and you can’t do it by yourself,” said Tavares, of how to handle the Bruins defensive game. “I think it’s just not forcing things. I think we still have to be aggressive, we have to come with speed, we have to try to get pucks in deep and we have to forecheck – try to make those parts of the game really tough on them and create some opportunities.”
It appears that playing at home won’t necessarily help the Islanders get a leg up on the Bruins in any of those categories. The Isles, who are currently in the midst of a seven-game homestand, have struggled mightily at the Coliseum this season, posting a 2-7-0 record at home. On the road, they have gone 6-3-1.
“If we knew what was wrong I don’t think we’d be in this situation,” said Tavares, following his team’s morning skate. “Obviously, we haven’t played the way we’d like to. I think it’s just that we haven’t played good, full 60 minute games and played well throughout all three periods.
“We’ve had really good stretches where we dominated some parts of games, we just haven’t put it all together and those lapses have cost us.”
Not only will playing a full 60 minutes help the Isles improve their play on Long Island, but will also be key for the Isles if they want to have success against the Bruins tonight.
“We want to come out hard,” Tavares said. “This is a big game for us, we haven’t played well at home. I think it’s just having the intensity and the attention to the little things in the game for a full 60 minutes.
“We’ve got to be ready to play right from the drop of the puck, these guys come hard; they’re physical, they skate well, they’re well-structured and play a good system. They’re one of the toughest teams to play against and we have to be ready and match that intensity and try to be a little better.”