Bruins vs. Islanders series preview
A pair of defensive juggernauts are set to clash in an East Division final that - on the surface at least - shapes up to be a tense affair.
But the Bruins have been scorching hot since a flurry of deadline acquisitions, easily disposing of a strong Capitals team in Round 1. The Islanders, meanwhile, have been trending in the wrong direction and were gifted a first-round victory thanks to Tristan Jarry's incompetence.
Will upsetting the Penguins be the spark New York needs to get back on track? Or will the Bruins prove too much to handle, as they have for nearly all of their opponents over the past six weeks?
3. Bruins (-240) vs. 4. Islanders (+200)
|53.33 (8th)||xGF%*||54.07 (4th)|
|54.88 (3rd)||CF%*||49.35 (16th)|
|50.44 (14th)||HDCF%*||56.21 (3rd)|
|7.1 (30th)||SH%*||8.37 (13th)|
|.920 (13th)||SV%*||.931 (3rd)|
|21.9 (10th)||PP%||18.8 (20th)|
|86.0 (2nd)||PK%||83.7 (6th)|
|1/18||NYI 1 - BOS 0||0.88 - 1.18||33.93 - 66.07||5 - 3||Varlamov - Rask|
|2/13||NYI 4 - BOS 2||2.79 - 1.55||53.65 - 46.35||14 - 5||Varlamov - Rask|
|2/25||NYI 7 - BOS 2||3.01 - 3.06||50.38 - 49.62||13 - 13||Varlamov - Halak|
|3/9||NYI 2 - BOS 1 SO||1.56 - 1.42||47.01 - 52.99||11 - 6||Varlamov - Halak|
|3/25||BOS 3 - NYI 4 OT||1.4 - 1.58||59.5 - 40.5||4 - 5||Halak - Varlamov|
|4/15||BOS 4 - NYI 1||2.29 - 0.84||61.88 - 38.12||9 - 0||Rask - Varlamov|
|4/16||BOS 3 - NYI 0||1.71 - 1.13||61.31 - 38.69||10 - 6||Swayman - Sorokin|
|5/10||BOS 3 - NYI 2 OT||2.22 - 0.9||63.81 - 36.19||7 - 3||Rask - Sorokin|
Despite being the league's hottest team over the final month of the regular season, the Bruins (+1000) entered the playoffs with just the sixth-best odds to win the Stanley Cup. After a first-round demolition of Washington, those odds have been slashed by more than half, and only the Avalanche (+240) are now priced shorter than Boston (+450) to win it all.
Up next for Boston is an Islanders team that will be aiming to replicate its regular-season success against the Bruins in hopes of making a second successive trip to the Stanley Cup semifinals. New York's 5-2-1 head-to-head edge during the regular season is a bit misleading, though.
The Bruins improved drastically over the final month of the campaign after a trio of deadline acquisitions. They led the NHL with a 63.09 expected goals for percentage at five-on-five with Taylor Hall in the lineup, going 11-3-1 in those games. They faced the Islanders three times over that span, winning all three contests while owning a 69.49% share of the expected goals. And New York was hardly dominant in winning the first five meetings. The underlying metrics were relatively even in those games, with goaltending proving key to the Islanders' success.
To win this series, goaltending will once again be pivotal for New York, as it was in Round 1. The Penguins were largely the better team in their series against the Islanders, who owned just a 46.33 expected goals for percentage at five-on-five but capitalized on an absolute horror show from Jarry. The netminder was directly to blame for three of Pittsburgh's losses and was miserable throughout, posting minus-6.44 goals saved above average and minus-6.72 goals saved above expected. Both marks were by far the worst among goaltenders this postseason. New York's Ilya Sorokin was third with 3.07 goals saved above average.
The Islanders will need something similar to unfold to have a chance against Boston. The Bruins are better than the Penguins at both five-on-five and on special teams, and they just manhandled a very good Capitals team while owning 59.27% of the series' expected goal share at five-on-five. Boston limited Washington's high-powered offense to just 1.76 expected goals for per 60 minutes, and it generated 48 high-danger chances across five games compared to the Capitals' 30.
The Bruins' power play and penalty kill both consistently rank among the league's best, and this season was no exception. Boston was especially efficient on the penalty kill, setting up what should have been an epic first-round battle against a lethal Capitals power play. But it wasn't a close contest, as the Bruins held Washington's third-ranked power-play unit to just three goals on 21 opportunities. Boston will now look to shut down an Islanders power play that ranked 21st in the regular season and went 3-for-18 against the Penguins' 26th-ranked penalty kill in Round 1.
New York will have to withstand a lot of pressure in this series, staying patient - a defining trait of Barry Trotz's teams - and disciplined against a Boston squad likely to control possession. The Bruins should have no issue generating offense at five-on-five and can be trusted to win the battle on special teams, as well. It's hard to see New York charting a path to Round 3 without Sorokin significantly outplaying Tuukka Rask, who isn't quite the goalie he once was. Boston's quality should ultimately prove too much for an Islanders team that simply hasn't played good hockey over the past two months.
Pick: Bruins (-240)
Alex Moretto is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.