When it comes to their second-round matchup with Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders, which will get underway on Saturday night and in a fully reopened TD Garden, the Boston Bruins feel like they’re looking in the mirror.
“I think they have a lot of our attributes, right?” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said following Thursday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “They want to be structured, they want to play with discipline, they have good goaltending, and their D certainly get involved, but they they want to play D first. They’ve got different lines that can hurt you. So in that regard, we’re playing ourselves a little bit, very well coached.
“They’re a patient team, defend well. We saw it in the first series, [they have] two good goaltenders. They had to go to their Plan B and he won them all four games. So it doesn’t matter who they put in there, they’re going to get good goaltending.”
“Obviously, the Islanders play a really physical game, really a hard game to play against,” said defenseman Jeremy Lauzon. “You know they’re going to finish their check and they’re going to work every shift. I think it’s going to be a good test for us. And I think Washington prepared us for this series.”
The Bruins are more than familiar with the problems these Islanders can pose, too. The Bruins watched the Islanders take the first five of eight head-to-heads in 2021 before rallying for three straight victories over the Isles following the trade deadline.
“I know that I don’t want to judge us on the start of the year against them,” Cassidy, who cited the team’s overall health and some of their scheduling breaks as some of their early-season issues with the Islanders, said. “I don’t know how they’re judging themselves against us from the end of the year when we had more success.
“So to me, honestly, it’s a fresh start for both teams. Both teams are playing well.”
But if the Bruins are going to continue their late-year flip of this rivalry, it will come back to some of the cracks the Bruins found in the Islander defense or corrections the Bruins made after suffering those five straight defeats.
“What did we do? Better third periods for one,” Cassidy said. “I think that was a problem up there early in the year. So whether that was us not staying patient or us making a couple of critical mistakes [that] ended up in our net, you learn from those. So obviously we managed the puck better in those last three games. I thought we were better on offense in terms of attacking their D, breaking them down, and finding some ways to create offense against their bigger D-men. Some of that was below the goal line, some of it was off the rush, we were able to get inside. And Taylor Hall definitely helped in that matter. So just we just played better, I think, at the end of the day and it showed on the scoreboard.”
The addition of Hall was a huge one in this season series, too, as he scored four goals in three games against New York following his trade from Buffalo to Boston, and drew multiple penalties against the Islanders’ defense.
And with home ice on their side in this series, the Bruins will focus on what they can control — and in every sense of the term — when the puck drops on the first Bruins-Islanders series since 1983.
“For us it’s it’s a matter of staying within ourselves to play the game in front of you,” said Cassidy. “But I thought earlier in the year the games that got away from us as much as what we did as what they did. And the later games here at home, I thought we managed pucks better and didn’t try to force the issue in games that were tight. We sort of let the game come to us and dictate the terms. So that’s kind of our goal going forward.”
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.