Through three games, the New York Islanders find themselves in a familiar spot trailing 2-1 to the Boston Bruins. In those three games, the Islanders have not been able to slow down Boston’s Perfection Line. Now that is a difficult task for any team, but the Islanders need to be perfect against that line in order to win this series against Boston. If not their playoffs could be over within the next two games. The Islanders must have a similar strategy to what Montreal and Winnipeg did in their first-round series. Make the other guys on the team beat you. But what makes the Bruins so dangerous is that they finally have depth. However, the New York Islanders defence has to find even greater heights to defeat the Bruins.
New York Islanders Defence Overmatched by Bruins Top Line
As much as Barry Trotz wants to get his top pair of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech out against Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, the Bruins are finding ways to play those guys against the Islanders other defensive pairs. In the three games in the series thus far, Boston’s “Perfection Line” has combined for 12 points. Each member of the line recording four points in the first three games. That includes a hat trick from Pastrnak in Game 1 and the game-winning overtime goal from Marchand in Game 3. Even in the Islanders lone victory in the series in Game 2, the top line for Boston was still able to get their chances. That is something the New York Islanders defence must limit when the puck drops on Game 4 Saturday night in Nassau Coliseum.
Pullock and Pelech have done a good job against that top line, but give credit to Bruins’ head coach Bruce Cassidy for making adjustments so that he can get his guys out against Andy Greene, Noah Dobson, Nick Leddy, and Scott Mayfield. The latter has been torched by the Bruins’ top line especially in Game 1. Trotz has to do everything in his power not to have that pair out there against Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak. Now as previously mentioned, even if the Islanders go with the strategy of just trying to stop the top line, then they might get burned by the Bruins’ second line of Craig Smith, Taylor Hall, and David Krejci. This means the Islanders’ defence has to find a way to stop two lines instead of one.
We know the Islanders play a variation of the neutral zone trap, if they want to win this series, they will have to clog up the neutral zone even more to stop this Bruins’ team.
Getting a Save
One thing that can help the Islanders and their defence is getting a save or two from their goaltenders. Semyon Varlamov has returned to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even though Ilya Sorokin did not play a poor Game 1, Varlamov had a better record against Boston than Sorokin. Including the regular season, Varlamov is 7-2 with a 1.90 goals-against-average and .940 save percentage. And while he won Game 2 playing very well, and doing the same in Game 3, he still looks shaky at times. There are still signs of him not being confident in between the pipes, similar to what we saw in Round 1 against Pittsburgh. Varlamov is still giving up the first goal on the first shot of the game. That simply cannot happen.
Varlamov continues to put the Islanders behind the eight-ball from the start. He eventually settles down, but the New York Islanders’ defence needs a save early. If they are always on their heels, that is not a receipt for success. In addition to the opening goal of each game, the Marchand overtime goal cannot go in either. Just like in Round 1, goals that should not go in are going in. And in the playoffs, you need your goalie to make the big save. Just look at what Tuukka Rask is doing for the Bruins. He is making the big save at the big moment. Varlamov is not doing that. If the Islanders want to win Game 4 and this series, they need a save.
In addition to getting a save or two, the Islanders need to get more offence from their top line. Mathew Barzal is finally on the scoreboard, so that should get him started for the Islanders. Kyle Palmieri, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Travis Zajac are providing the offence for the Islanders right now, but they need more from their other players. Not having Anders Lee hurts, but even when he was in the lineup scoring was still a problem. The Islanders energy line of Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, and Casey Cizikas provides the necessary spark to get back into games, but do not expect them to fill the net every game. Don’t get me wrong, these guys can score goals, but they are there to provide a spark and change the direction of a game with their physical play.
Offence is at a premier in this series with two good defences, but if the Islanders defence can come up big in their own zone, this will lead to offensive chances they want on the other end to get back even in this series.
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