With the Washington Capitals getting eliminated last night, the field of potential second-round opponents for the Bruins got cut in half. Now, they can either play the New York Islanders or the Tampa Bay Lightning. As of right now, it looks like they’ll be playing the Lightning. However, if the Montreal Canadiens can complete their comeback and win their series against the Philadelphia Flyers, they’ll play the Islanders. We could have that answer as soon as tonight, as the Canadiens will be playing a do-or-die Game 6 against Flyers. If the Flyers win, the Bruins will see the Lightning. However, if the Canadiens win, we’ll have to wait for a decisive Game 7 on Sunday to find out who the Bruins are playing. In the meantime, which one of these teams should the Bruins be hoping to pull in Round 2? The answer isn’t as easy as it may seem.
Bruins Have Done Better Against the Islanders Recently
The Bruins have had a lot more regular-season success against the Islanders in recent years than they have against the Lightning. This past season, they were 2-0-1 against the Islanders, while they were 1-3-0 against the Lightning. Since Trotz took over the Islanders bench in 2018, the Bruins have a 5-1-0 record against the team, while they are 2-6 against Tampa in the same time frame. So, if recent history is any indication, the Bruins should really be hoping to play the Islanders.
However, the Islanders Appear to Be Playing Better Right Now
Despite recent history, as the heading says, the Islanders seem like the better team right now. They looked dominant against the Capitals for most of the series. On the other hand, while the Lightning won the series in five just like the Islanders did, they weren’t dominant. All of their games were very close, including that 5OT thriller in Game 1. Yes, they were playing two totally different teams, and the Capitals really didn’t look like themselves while the Blue Jackets did. But, that doesn’t mean the Islanders weren’t dominant, and the Lightning weren’t a little shaky. Don’t get me wrong, Tampa was still good. But, from what we’ve seen so far these playoffs, the Islanders are the better team right now.
The Islanders Defense is Stifling
My biggest concern should the Bruins play the Islanders is how they’ll stand up to their stifling defense. While the Bruins have had a lot of success against these systems recently, their offense is still a little rusty, so I’m not sure they’d have it as easy right now. While they have been getting much better recently, the Bruins have still been prone to overpassing or just taking too long to get shots off. That’s not good news against a team as stifling as the Islanders are. The key to beating them is to have patience, and then when an opportunity presents itself, take it and make the most of it. They can’t pass any of them up. So, even though they’re significantly better now, the tendency to still pass up shots sometimes is concerning if they have to play the Islanders.
Goalies Would Be Huge in a Boston-Tampa Series
The biggest X-factor in a Boston-Tampa series, in my opinion, would be the goaltenders. Starting with the Bruins, will Halak be able to stand up to a high-octane offense like the Lightning have? I think so, but it will be hard on him. He’s not used to playing this much, and making him stand up to a really potent offense is going to make things a lot more difficult. As I said, I think he can handle it, but it’s best to avoid it if possible because if Halak goes down or is knocked off his game, the Bruins are in trouble.
On the other side, Tampa goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is hit-or-miss. He’s very good when he’s on. But, he hasn’t been at his best in these playoffs. If he keeps playing like he has been, the Bruins will be fine. Their offense is really waking up, and they’ll take advantage of a shaky goaltender just like they did against Carolina. But, Vasilevskiy tends to like to imitate a brick wall when he plays them, and the results speak for themselves. So, if he turns it on, things get a lot more difficult for the Bruins. Hopefully, if they do play Tampa, he doesn’t find a way to turn it around. I’m honestly not sure if he will or not given how he played all year and how weird playing in the bubble is.
In Short, Neither Will Be Easy
Regardless of who the Bruins play in the second round, it’s going to a hard-fought series. But, even though I have my reservations about it, I agree with the vast majority of people in that the Islanders would be the better matchup. Yes, they’re arguably playing better than the Lightning right now. But, even though the Bruins are still shaking off that last bit of rust, they’re looking close to how they did all year. Given that and their recent successes against the Islanders, it’ll still be a hard series, but I think they’ll be the better matchup.
If nothing else, from a physicality standpoint, it’ll be better. Yes, it’s true that the Bruins play even better in really emotional games. But, Pastrnak is already dealing with a nagging injury, and I’m sure others are as well. It’s probably best to avoid the insane physicality that’s been there in recent Bruins-Lightning games, and that will only be more intense because it’s the playoffs. So, while I won’t say the Islanders will be the easier matchup because I’m not confident that’s true, they will be the better one in my opinion.
To be honest though, I don’t really care who the Bruins draw at this point. Yes, it’d be great to avoid the Lightning. But, the Islanders won’t be easy either. I think the Bruins can beat either team, but it’ll be a long, hard series. So, I’m not really sure it matters too much which one they draw. Whoever they play, I’m confident they’ll be ready for a great series. It’ll be fun to watch for sure, although not good for the blood pressure.
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)
Featured image courtesy of John Minchillo/AP
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