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Islanders: Game 1 loss to Bruins doesn’t mean series is over

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 18: Head coach Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders during the second period in Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 18, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 18: Head coach Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders during the second period in Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 18, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders lost the opening game of their second-round matchup against the Boston Bruins on Saturday. And it wasn’t exactly pretty at times.

Just looking at the underlying numbers tells you the Bruins had the run of play for basically the entire game. At 5on5, where the Islanders are the strongest, they held 32.69% of the shots, 23.91% of the scoring chances, 14.29% of the high-danger chances, and 19.91% of the expected goals. (All stats from NaturalStatTrick.)

Again, that’s not pretty. But that doesn’t mean the series is over. Not by a long shot.

It’s far from over for the New York Islanders

All I can think of after Game 1 is Dennis Green’s legendary rant. The Bruins were who we thought they were. The Bruins top line was perfect with three goals and a ton of chances. The Bruins took a few penalties because of their poor discipline and their goalie was his usual self.

Again, take it away Dennis.

And still, the Islanders managed to keep this game close until the last five minutes of the game when the Bruins put up two goals to pad their 3-2 lead.

The Isles scored a power-play goal. Making the Bruins pay for their poor discipline. They got production from the back-end and from the largely invisible top line. And Ilya Sorokin was as good as you’d expect a goalie who was getting shelled for 40 shots and 65 attempts during the game.

While the Bruins were who we thought they were, the Isles very much weren’t. And still, they kept this game close. Closer than the numbers suggested it should have been.

For Game 2, the Islanders will obviously have to fix a few things. Things that are absolutely manageable.

  • They need to create more from inside the slot. That may sound easier said than done, but the Isles have been one of the better teams in the NHL this season in exactly that department.
  • They need better gap control. As Arthur Staple pointed out during the game, the Isles gave Bergeron’s line far too much space to operate last night. Bergeron ended the night with eight shots on net and at least three resulted in big rebounds off of Sorokin that were kicked out directly to Pastrnak. Closing that gap should reduce the amount of rubber they get on Sorokin.
  • Sorokin has to reign in those rebounds. He wasn’t always to blame but the rebound control was off last night.
  • The PK has to be more effective. Specifically at reducing Pastrnak’s opportunities. The Islanders were called from two penalties (one of them was very dubious, not that it ultimately mattered though). The Bruins scored on both. In eight games against Boston this year, the Isles penalty kill was effective 84% of the time. They know what to do.

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Losing Game 1 wasn’t ideal, but this series was never going to be a quick one. These teams are evenly matched. This should go the distance. The Islanders know what they need to fix and you better believe Barry Trotz will have it sorted out by Game 2.

This series is far from over.

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