Before this season, the Islanders certainly had a hard time with the Boston Bruins as they managed just one win in their last ten games against the B’s. But this season, the Islanders have been able to flip the script as they have four wins in four games against the Bruins heading into Thursday night’s game in Boston. All four of those games were at the Nassau Coliseum so the remaining four games will be at TD Garden.
But somehow, the Islanders seem to have the Bruins number this season and it’s because they’ve been able to play with the correct ingredients that make up the recipe for success against Boston.
“I think the biggest thing is that they play a man’s game,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz during a Zoom meeting with reporters on Wednesday morning. “They play a 200-foot game. If you’re not committed to go the 200 feet (and) committed to winning the small battles, then you’re not going to beat the Boston Bruins. There’s no way.”
In their four wins over the Bruins so far this season, the Islanders have been able to come away with two points in multiple ways
Win number one came was a 1-0 win in the home opener on January 18th when Jean-Gabriel Pageau snapped a scoreless tie late in the third period. Then on February 13th, Mat Barzal broke a 2-2 deadlock in the third period and Pageau netted his second of the game to lift the Isles past the Bruins 4-2. On February 25th, the Islanders scored five third period goals in a 7-2 victory and then on March 9th, the Islanders pulled out a 2-1 shootout victory against Boston.
The common denominator in all four games was that each contest was tied going into the third period and on all four occasions, the Islanders found a way to win.
“It’s just two tough teams going at it,” said Islanders forward Mat Barzal. “Two teams that play (a) similar defensively structured system. Both sides have gamers. Both sides have a hard third and fourth line that grind and make it tough. It’s just a matchup between two good teams. I thought we really deserved two and the other two could have gone either way and we were fortunate enough to get the wins.”
Aside from Trotz’s mandate of playing a 200-foot game and making the necessary commitments in your own end, the corners, and the dirty areas, the Islanders also must continue to find a way to contain the Bruins’ “Perfection Line” of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. In the first four games, those three players combined for just three goals.
Another way the Islanders can give themselves a good chance to win is to stay out of the penalty box against a Bruins team that has the ninth best power play in the NHL (25%).
“You gotta stay disciplined,” said Trotz. “They’ve got a very good power play with their number one line and you’ve gotta keep that number one line in check. You’ve gotta just play a really solid game. You gotta manage the moment and the situation. You gotta have a lot of people back quickly because they can hurt you in a lot of ways.”
While the Islanders have certainly had a difficult time this season against teams like the Capitals, Penguins and, until the last two games, the Flyers, they have certainly cleaned up on teams like the Sabres, Devils, and a really good Bruins team that currently resides in the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division. The Isles will begin play on Thursday in first place with a two-point lead over the Capitals but they also have a ten-point cushion on the Bruins.
So far this season, the Islanders have had the right recipe for home cooking and now we’ll see if that success can continue in Boston. As Barry Trotz pointed out, it will take playing a “man’s game” to do it.