The Islanders don’t have a Perfection Line, the Bruins’ dominating top trio of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Nor do they have a former Hart Trophy winner, as the Bruins do with Taylor Hall.
Still, these second-round playoff opponents are strikingly similar in the way they want to play.
"Both teams bring a high intensity and a high compete," Mathew Barzal said after the Islanders practiced at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow on Friday. "That would be the two biggest things that are the similarities between us. You watch a Boston Bruins game, it’s heavy, it’s fast, just intense hockey. We bring a bit of the same thing. It’s two teams that play pretty similar and it’s going to be an intense series."
Game 1 is Saturday night at TD Garden as the teams meet in the postseason for the first time since 1983. The winner of the best-of-seven series will advance to the NHL semifinals, where the four divisional champions will be reseeded.
The Islanders, seeded fourth in the East Division, dispatched the Penguins in six games in the first round while the third-seeded Bruins ousted the second-seeded Capitals in five games. The Islanders reached the Eastern Conference finals last season for the first time since 1993 while the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and lost in the Cup Final in 2013 and 2019.
So, while the competition stiffens with each successive playoff round, Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who won the Cup with the Capitals in 2018, said the first round is often the toughest to get through.
"You work so hard to get to the playoffs and then that first round, teams are so amped up," said Trotz, whose teams have now advanced past the first round in seven straight seasons, including three with the Islanders. "It’s just a different level and you want it to continue and, so, it’s really hard. Once you get through that first round, you know it’s going to be hard and you almost get used to it. It becomes a more natural thing for you."
The Islanders went 5-2-1 against the Bruins this season, winning all four at Nassau Coliseum but losing all three after the Bruins acquired Hall, named the NHL’s MVP in 2018 while with the Devils, from the Sabres. Hall had four goals in three games against the Islanders as a Bruin and adding him to the Bruins’ second line with David Krejci and Craig Smith presents a matchup nightmare given how lethal the top line can be.
"It’s a lot similar when you look at Pittsburgh and the addition they made with [Jeff] Carter," defenseman Scott Mayfield said. "It just gives them more depth. It’s huge for them. It turned them into a more dangerous team. They have that first line up front that everybody knows about, everybody knows what they can do. But that gives them a little more scoring on the second line, as well."
"Since they got Taylor Hall, it’s really put everybody on the right seat on the bus for their team," Trotz said of the Bruins’ second line. "Our second pair or whatever line is out there has to respect what they can do. They’re very dangerous."
Notes & quotes: Trotz listed rookie sharpshooter Oliver Wahlstrom as doubtful for Game 1, meaning Travis Zajac will likely remain in the lineup. Wahlstrom suffered an unspecified injury going hard into the wall in the third period of Monday’s Game 5 against the Penguins. Zajac logged 11:55 in Wednesday’s Game 6 with an assist and a goal-saving swipe out of the crease of Kasperi Kapanen’s chance.