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Five Takeaways From the Isles Series Win Over the Bruins

Barzal, Palmieri and Varlamov are three of the keys for Islanders win in six games

by Cory Wright @WrightsWay / NewYorkIslanders.com

When the New York Islanders advanced to the Eastern Conference Final last season, they did it in an empty building, far removed from family, friends and fans. 

Wednesday night was the complete opposite, as the Islanders closed out the Boston Bruins with a decisive win in Game 6, in front of 12,000 screaming fans, who were providing enough electricity to run up the ConEd bill at Nassau Coliseum. 

It was another memorable night in a playoff run that's starting to have plenty of them. For a team that started the season playing in an empty Coliseum, getting back to the third round is the type of bang the old barn deserves to go out on. 

"We didn't have a big break coming out of the bubble and we started this journey and it's been a grind, but it's starting to pay off," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "Now that we're having the interaction with the fans, the atmosphere, the energy, it's been worth it. It's been a good ride through this season because it's been a grind."

Video: Isles Advance To Third Round

As excited as the Islanders were to get back to the third round, and as much as it was a benchmark, Trotz's team has only been focusing on the task at hand, taking their two series against Pittsburgh and Boston one game at a time. By the time they dismantled Boston in Game 6, Trotz said they weren't even thinking about the Bruins, just focusing on their next shift. 

"We recognize that this is a special moment for this building and the guys understood the magnitude of this game, the importance of the game," Trotz said after Game 6. "This is a group that's very easy to - you don't have to say too many things, just give little reminders here and there. They're really a solid veteran group. They understand the moments and this was a moment for them."

Now the Islanders will have a chance to take care of some "unfinished business" going head-to-head with the defending champions and the team that vanquished them from the bubble, the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

"It's a great opportunity for us, seeing [Tampa] again in the Semifinals," Anthony Beauvillier said. "I think we're taking a lot of pride in what we do and to get back to the spot we were in last year with some unfinished business - it's a great opportunity for us. Everyone's excited in the room and we're really looking forward to it."

The journey continues, but before they go to Tampa - here are five takeaways from a second round series win over the Bruins. 

Video: NYI@BOS, Gm5: Palmieri buries loose puck for PPG

PALMIERI PAYING DIVIDENDS:

The acquisition of Kyle Palmieri continues to look better and better for the Islanders. 

Palmieri leads the team with seven goals in the playoffs, including a team-leading four vs the Bruins. The 30-year-old winger tied Barzal and linemate JG Pageau for the team-lead in points in the series and is playing a playoff-style game, scoring goals in and around the net, helping fill the void left by Anders Lee's absence. 

"He's getting into those greasy, dirty areas, which we saw and knew he could and he is and he's getting rewarded for it," Trotz said. "We don't score easy usually and having an Anders Lee and even an Oliver Wahlstrom, who is more of a natural goal scorer, having those two guys out, Plams has done a good job filling in."

Palmieri ended the series with a five-game point streak and a three-game goal streak, making him the hottest Islander at the end of the series. He's formed a strong partnership with Pageau, as the two small, but feisty forwards continue to feed off each other, and former Devils teammate Travis Zajac. 

Pageau finished the series with six points (2G, 4A) - and won 55% of his face-offs - while Zajac provided some extra veteran savvy and defensive awareness. 

Video: BOS@NYI, Gm3: Varlamov denies Ritchie's big chance

VARLAMOV'S VETERAN SAVVY SHOWS THROUGH: 

Ilya Sorokin had a sizzling start to the NHL playoffs vs Pittsburgh, but the veteran Semyon Varlamov won back the net against the Bruins, starting Games 2-6. 

Varlamov was in net for all four wins against the Bruins, going 4-1 in the series with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. Trotz said he made the decision partially on Varlamov's 5-1-0 record in the regular season, but also for his mental toughness against a dangerous Bruins team. 

Varlamov was busy, seeing at least 40 shots in three of his five starts, but was never fazed, even when he allowed an early goal, or when he allowed Brad Marchand's sharp-angled OT winner in Game 3. The 33-year-old goalie bounced back from the OT loss with 28 saves on 29 shots in a Game 4 win and was key in holding off the Bruins push late in Game 5. 

Both goalies each have a series win under their belts, so the Islanders have two capable options to put out against the Lightning's firepower. 

Video: Cinematic Recap: Game 5 NYI 5, BOS 4

ISLES STAY RESILIENT:

As decisive as Game 6 was, this was far from an easy series for the Islanders. The Islanders and Bruins played a physical and chippy series, with a pair of fights in Game 4 and plenty of post-whistle scrums throughout. The goal was to take a piece out of each other and while the Islanders got the better of the Bruins, there will be plenty of ice bags to go around

The games were close too, as Games 1 and 4 were tied in the third period, while Games 2 and 3 were decided in OT. The Islanders had plenty of holes to dig out of as well, as they allowed the first goal in four of the six games. 

Once again, the Islanders counted on their character and resilience, finding ways to hang around during furious Bruins' pushes, like the start of Game 5. Even when they've been outshoot, such as 44-19 in Game 5, the Islanders can take a breath, take advantage of their opportunities and get to their lockdown style. 

They didn't allow a shot on goal in the final 6:18 of Game 4, and only allowed four shot attempts in the final few minutes after Trotz's timeout in Game 5. Add that resilience to a killer instinct developed with two closeout wins at the Coliseum in two weeks and the Islanders suddenly look like a well-seasoned playoff group.

"We found a way to win, good teams do that," Jordan Eberle said after Game 5 "We have a lot of character in this locker room and a lot of guys who have battled with each other for the last three years from the playoffs. You go through that many rounds and that's how you gain character. You really want to play hard for one another."

Tweet from @NYIslanders: Your New York Islanders are moving on to the #StanleyCup Semifinals. pic.twitter.com/IRgVS7yNbN

ISLES BALANCE BEATS BRUINS TOP HEAVY APPROACH:

While the Bruins may have boasted the higher-end skill in the Perfection Line, it was the Islanders depth and balanced production that ruled the day.

Make no mistake, David Pastrnak (5G, 4A), Brad Marchand (4G, 4A) and Patrice Bergeron (1G, 4A) got their looks, their points and were gamebreakers in Game 1, but the Islanders were able to keep Boston's secondary scoring in check. 

Aside from the Bruins top power-play unit - Pastrnak, Marchand, Bergeron, David Krejci (2G, 4A) and Charlie McAvoy (1G, 5A) all had at least five points in the series, but no other Bruins player had more than two. 

Taylor Hall had as many fights as he had goals, while Craig Smith's two-even strength points were the most of any player off the top power-play unit. Jake DeBrusk was held without a point, as were the Bruins fourth line. 

Compare that to the Islanders depth. Sixteen of the 18 Islanders skaters recorded a point, with 14 players recording two points or more. In contrast, 12 total Bruins recorded a point in the series. 

The depth came through at key moments, like Casey Cizikas' OT winner in Game 2, or Travis Zajac's first goal of the playoffs to ignite the Coliseum in Game 6. Noah Dobson dished out a team-high five assists in the series. The Islanders will need all four lines if they want to get past the defending champs. 

 Video: BOS@NYI, Gm4: Barzal swats puck in to give Isles lead

BARZAL IGNITES OFFENSE:

After being relatively quiet in the Islanders series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mathew Barzal knew he needed to step up his production against the Bruins. 

Barzal did exactly that, rattling off a team-high tying six points (3G, 3A) including a four-game point streak picking up the offensive baton from the Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey trio. 

Barzal jarred his offense loose with a gritty goal in Game 3 - his first of the postseason - jamming in a rebound at the side of the net. The Islanders center took plenty of punishment during the series, including a between-the-legs slash from David Krejci in Game 4, but persevered. He dished the game-tying goal to Kyle Palmieri and batted the game-winning goal out of low-air to propel the Isles in Game 4 and scored a key goal in Game 5 to even the score after a dominating Bruins push. 

The 24-year-old has maintained that winning games supersedes points, but the Islanders will need production from Barzal to continue their playoff run. A Barzal who isn't hesitant about getting to the interior of the ice, shooting the puck or digging in when things get chippy is a dangerous asset. 

"Throughout the whole playoffs I've been pretty happy with my compete level and we're winning games," Barzal said after Game 4. "So if the points aren't there, but we're winning games I'm okay with that. It's not going to be the same guy every night, so the last few games I knew I had to step up, it's been a heavy series and I had to step up and that's all I've tried to do is raise my compete. Again, just trying to do what I can to help this team win."

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