Islanders: Pros and Cons of playing Boston Bruins or Washington Capitals

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 07: The scoreboard displays that the New York Islanders win over the Florida Panthers period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 07, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 07: The scoreboard displays that the New York Islanders win over the Florida Panthers period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 07, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders stand at attention during the national anthems (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
The New York Islanders stand at attention during the national anthems (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders will face either the Boston Bruins or the Washington Capitals, who’s a better matchup for the Isles?

With a 3-1 series win over the Florida Panthers, the New York Islanders will advance to the playoffs for the second time in two years. Say what you will about how they got there and the impact the canceled 2019-20 regular season had on the outcome, but this is still a success that should be celebrated.

But the Islanders will have little time to do so. The playoffs are set to begin as early as August 11. That’s just three days from now.

With the Carolina Hurricanes sweeping the New York Rangers out in three games and the Montreal Canadiens surprisingly eliminating the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games, we know that the Islanders will be the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The winner of the series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets will be the seventh seed in the East. That means the Islanders will face the three seed from the Eastern Conference round-robin. (Still following?) At the moment that could be either the Washington Capitals or the Boston Bruins.

Both teams face off at noon on Sunday. The winner will face the Islanders while the loser will face Carolina.

With that in mind, who would be a good matchup for the New York Islanders? Islanders fans seem to want no part of the Boston Bruins. Here are the pros and cons for each matchup

Washington Capitals celebrates scoring a goal (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
Washington Capitals celebrates scoring a goal (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /

Washington Capitals

2019-20 Season Record: 41-20-8 (3rd Eastern Conference)
Record vs Isles (2018 to 2020): 4-4-0

Pros

We know who they are: The Islanders have seen plenty of the Washington Capitals over the previous two seasons with eight games played. The division rivals split those games right down the middle with a 4-4-0 record.

Since Barry Trotz has taken over behind the bench the Islanders have matched-up well against Trotz’s former team.  The Isles have been able to match the Capitals high-power offense with Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov with 21 goals-for and 21 goals-against in the series.

Goaltending: With Ilya Samsonov injured prior to the RTP training camp he didn’t travel to Toronto and won’t be ready until 2020-21. That means the Capitals are playing Braden Holtby. Holtby hasn’t been that Vezina caliber goalie since Trotz left. He averaged an abysmal 0.897SV% and 3.11GAA in 47 starts this season.

The Islanders have a clear advantage in the goaltending department. Not only has Varalmov posted better numbers than Holtby in the regular season, but his postseason numbers have been fantastic compared to Holtby.

Varlamov: 1.77GAA, 0.932SV% (4GP)
Holtby: 2.46GAA, 0.898SV% (2GP)

Cons

Talent: The Capitals just have more talent. Not only do they have the aforementioned three up top, but they have John Carlsson on the blueline. If the series comes down to who can capitalize on their chances more the edge (on paper) clearly goes to the Capitals.

Penalty Kill: The Islanders penalty kill was terrible against the Florida Panthers. The Isles couldn’t clog up shooting lanes and the Panthers took full advantage with four of their seven goals in the series on the power-play.

The Caps power play was mid-table during the regular season, but if the Isles couldn’t stop Mike Hoffman from snipping one-timers on the PP, who says they can stop chronic PP-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin?

Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins reacts following a goal (Photo by Andre/Ringuette/Getty Images)
Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins reacts following a goal (Photo by Andre/Ringuette/Getty Images) /

Boston Bruins

2019-20 Season Record: 44-14-12 (1st Eastern Conference)
Record vs Isles (2018 to 2020): 1-3-2

Pros

Top-heavy: The Bruins really heavily on their top line to generate offense. Of the Bruins 227 goals, 47 of those goals come from Pastrnak, Bergeron, and Marchand. Shut them down and the Bruins offense is effectively shut down.

The reason the Bruins might fall to the third seed (or fourth) is that that top line isn’t clicking.  Without them, they can’t win ss head-coach Bruce Cassidy stated recently: “Typically, when they don’t for extended periods of time, we have trouble winning.”

We’ve seen the Islanders shut down top offensive lines in the playoffs before. Not only did they keep Barkov, Huberdeau, and Hoffman quiet at 5on5, but they did the same to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jake Guentzel in last year’s playoff series.

Form: Boston was the top team in the league going into the return to play. But in two round-robin games so far, the Bruins have gone 0-2-0 and have been outscored 7-3. They just haven’t played up to their standards. (Mainly due to that aforementioned point.)

This might be the right time for the Islanders to play them.

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Cons

It’s Boston: The Islanders don’t typically play well against the Boston Bruins. Over the last two seasons, the Isles have held a 1-3-2 record against the Bruins. That includes a rough 4-0 loss to the B’s at the end of February 2020. The Bruins have had our number of late.

They were also the top team in the league this season. There are 100 reasons to fear the Bruins. As in the 100 points they put up in 70 games. They were the only team to hit 100 points before play stopped in March.

The Bruins dominated the NHL through 2019-20. If they can sort themselves out by the 11th the Isles could be in for a quick series.

Talent: Just like the Capitals, the Bruins have talent everywhere in their lineup. David Pastrnak is easily their most dangerous asset with 48 goals this season (25 at 5on5). If the games come down to who has the better team on paper the Boston Bruins will easily take this series.

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