The Islanders and Bruins will drop the puck on their East Division Final series on Saturday night in Boston.
If you're a fan of old-school playoff hockey, you should be in for a treat as these two teams have built up some considerable animosity over the course of eight meetings this season.
Tale of the tape
The Bruins finished just two points ahead of the Islanders for third place in the East Division and held a slight four-goal advantage in terms of goal differential. After dropping the first five meetings in the series during the regular season, the Bruins answered back with three consecutive victories over the Isles in April. We saw plenty of 5's in terms of the posted totals and I would anticipate more of the same as this series goes on.
With surprisingly minimal fanfare, the Bruins brought in polarizing forward Taylor Hall prior to the trade deadline and he's certainly made a positive impact. In 16 regular season games with the B's, Hall contributed 14 points. He picked up right where he left off against the Capitals in round one, adding three points in five games. The B's have been desperate for secondary scoring beyond the 'Perfection Line' for years and now they seem to have it with Hall.
The big difference in the Islanders opening round series victory was between the pipes where rookie Ilya Sorokin stole the show against the Penguins supposedly high-powered offense. He brings a 1.95 GAA and .943 save percentage into round two after posting a 2.17 GAA and .918 SV% during the regular season. Sorokin isn't likely to upstage Bruins vet Tuukka Rask the way he did Tristan Jarry of the Pens, however. Rask was terrific during the regular season, recording a 15-5-4 record to go along with a 2.28 GAA and .913 SV%. He owned the Caps in round one, posting a 1.81 GAA and .941 SV%. Rask gave up just three goals on 47 shots in his last three appearances against New York during the regular season.
The Bruins top line didn't have to shoulder the entire offensive load in round one but still contributed 13 points in five games. The Islanders have had a knack for shutting down opponents' top scoring threats but that's certainly tough with the B's three-headed monster in Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak. The Isles inexplicably got just three assists from Mat Barzal in round one. He'll obviously need to pick up the pace offensively if New York is going to hang with Boston in this seires. J.G. Pageau and Brock Nelson combined for 13 points against the Penguins and can be difference-makers again in this series.
Who has the edge?
This has the makings of a long, heated series with Boston playing its best hockey of the season (16-6 last 22 games) and the Isles employing a gritty style and feeding off the energy of the small-but-boisterous crowed at the historic Nassau Coliseum. I'll give the B's the edge as they have the look of a true Stanley Cup contender and just enough scoring depth to outlast the Isles. Pick: Bruins in seven.