By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
With the Washington Capitals eliminated on Thursday night, the list of potential second-round opponents for the Boston Bruins was sliced in half. For the B’s, who made quick work of the Carolina Hurricanes in a five-game series victory, it’ll be either the New York Islanders or Tampa Bay Lightning.
So, who do ‘ya want, Bruce Cassidy?
“Well Tampa, obviously, I don’t believe we’ve fared nearly as well as we have against the Islanders,” Cassidy said following Friday’s practice in Toronto. “For whatever reason, I think the last two years we’ve played really well against the Islanders.”
To that point, and including their round-robin tournament head-to-head, the Bruins have dropped four of their five 2019-20 head-to-heads with the Lightning. But Cassidy’s Bruins went 2-0-1 against the Islanders during the regular season, and have taken five of six meetings since Barry Trotz took over behind the N.Y. bench in 2018.
“[The Islanders] have a tight defensive system, so do we. We think we’re patient with it, we don’t push the envelope, give up odd man rushes, get behind. I think they’re a really good team with the lead, as are we,” Cassidy offered. “As for Tampa, was more recent, a round robin game that could’ve went either way I thought, they scored late with about two minutes to go and we got ourselves back in that game. Right before the break we had two really good games. We went up there, they beat us in our building, both physical, both started to develop some animosity in those games.”
Outscoring New York 19-to-7 over the last two seasons, it’s really been the work of Boston’s superhuman first line with Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak that’s made a big difference, along with Tuukka Rask’s straight-up domination (a .961 save percentage) over the Isles over that span. That advantage in net may be out the window now following Rask’s decision to opt out due to a family emergency.
And ‘animosity’ may be putting it lightly when it comes to the Bruins-Lightning rivalry, as these teams combined for 94 minutes in penalties in their Mar. 7 meeting at TD Garden, and made their ’round-robin tune-up’ look like a war by the second period. These teams have also been the top two teams in the Atlantic for the last three years, which naturally lends itself to a strong dislike for one another.
But no matter the draw, the Bruins know they’re in for a real series come round two.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful but I mean just if you’re going on records Tampa is the better team, the higher seed, has earned that, but that doesn’t mean they will be better than the Islanders right now,” Cassidy noted. “They’re playing really well, the Islanders beat a real tough Washington team, handled Florida, so they’re on top of their game. Either way we’re expecting a difficult matchup but we like where our game is now too after the Carolina series.
“We put some building blocks in place in that series. We started doing things our way better more often and you’re going to need that against whatever team you draw.”
The Bruins could find out their second-round opponent by the night’s end, too, as a Canadiens loss to the Flyers in a must-win Game 6 will lock the Bruins into a second-round date with the Bolts.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.