Remarkably, the Islanders are facing their second-round opponent, the Bruins, for just the third time in their playoff history and for the first time in 38 years.
The Islanders have won both previous series, both en route to the Stanley Cup. The Islanders beat the Bruins in five games in a fight-filled quarterfinal series in 1980 and in six games in 1983.
Here’s a position-by-position look at these teams:
The Bruins’ Perfection Line of Brad Marchand (29 goals, 40 assists), Patrice Bergeron (23 goals, 25 assists) and David Pastrnak (20 goals, 28 assists) is one of the two best lines in the NHL and Taylor Hall skating with David Krejci on the second line just lengthens a deep group that also has size and grit. Brock Nelson with Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey is again the Islanders’ best playoff line but more is needed from Mathew Barzal (three assists in the first round) and Jordan Eberle (two goals, one assist). Jean-Gabriel Pageau had five goals and three assists against the Bruins this season. Edge: Bruins.
Long Beach’s Charlie McAvoy is a Norris Trophy candidate as he stepped up to fill the void left by Zdeno Chara’s departure. Mike Reilly is a key to the transition game but the Bruins have struggled with injuries to their blue-line corps all season. Jeremy Lauzon, Kevan Miller and John Moore all ended the first round injured. The Islanders’ top six has essentially remained the same all season and Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock will again get the toughest assignment against the Perfection Line. Nick Leddy with Scott Mayfield had some shaky moments in the first round. Edge: Even.
Rask went 4-1 with a 1.81 goals-against average and .941 save percentage against the Capitals in the first round and has led the Bruins to two Cup Finals. Rookie Jeremy Swayman, who shut out the Islanders in the regular season, will likely be the backup. Islanders rookie Ilya Sorokin (1.95 GAA, .943 save percentage) was brilliant in winning all four starts against the Penguins and Semyon Varlamov led the team to the Eastern Conference finals last season. Edge: Islanders.
The Bruins’ top unit — the top line with McAvoy and Krejci — is balanced and dangerous. Plus, the Bruins drew 19 power-play chances against the Capitals, scoring five goals. The Islanders were 3-for-16 against the Penguins and may not have sharpshooter Oliver Wahlstrom. Edge: Bruins.
The Bruins killed off 18 of the Capitals’ 21 chances in five games and ranked second in the regular season at 86%. The Islanders were 9-of-12 against the dangerous Penguins and ranked sixth in the regular season at 83.7%. Edge: Bruins.
The Bruins’ Bruce Cassidy and Barry Trotz are both straight shooters who get the most out of their players and don’t make it about themselves. The teams play similarly structured, defensively-sound games. Edge: Even.
Bruins in six: The Bruins have a much better goalie in Rask than the Penguins did and just as deep an array of scoring options. The Islanders are good and gritty but Boston looks like it might be Stanley Cup-bound.
Bruins in six: This is not a vote against the Islanders as much as it is a vote for the Bruins, who could lift the Cup in a little more than a month.
Bruins in five: The Bruins are a step up in class for the Islanders and their top line won’t be as invisible as the Sidney Crosby line was in the Penguins’ series. Also, Rask is a lot better goalie than Pittsburgh's Tristan Jarry.