The NY Islanders, who have dropped three of their last five games, are looking to get back to their winning ways by shipping up to Boston to take on the first-place Boston Bruins in the first game of a five-game road trip. The Bruins come into this game with a 14-0-1 record at home this season, while the Islanders are 8-6-0 on the road.
Saturday night marked the return of the fisherman logo with the debut of the Islanders' reverse retro uniforms, and they certainly reminded fans of those brutal seasons in the team's history with how they played. The Isles are coming off of an embarrassing shutout loss at the hands of Pyotr Kochetkov and the Carolina Hurricanes that ended in a 3-0 score, but Kochetkov didn't need to do too much as he only had to make 16 saves.
Paul Stastny scored the first goal for Carolina, and the Islanders had little to no response that would bleed into the third period. Jesperi Kotkaniemi tipped a Brent Burns shot past Ilya Sorokin to make it 2-0 Canes, which would be followed by a Jordan Staal dagger about five minutes later to put the nail in the coffin for the blue and orange. Sorokin rebounded after a tough loss against the St. Louis Blues by making 26 saves on 29 shots, albeit still resulting in a loss. To say the least, the Islanders were outmatched in every aspect of the game against Carolina, who is a very good team in their own right, and now will have to get it together to take on the best team in the NHL in their own barn.
The Bruins are coming off a 3-1 win against the Vegas Golden Knights on the road after losing a couple of heartbreakers to both Vegas and the Arizona Coyotes. Linus Ullmark was fantastic just like he has been all season, improving his record to 16-1-0 by making 30 saves on 31 shots in the win. After Golden Knights winger Mark Stone scored on the power play in the first period, captain Patrice Bergeron scored his 10th goal of the season to tie the game at one in the second frame. In the third period, Jake DeBrusk scored to break the tie, followed by Charlie Coyle putting one past Logan Thompson to pad the Bruins' lead by two. This game exemplified how deep and balanced Boston's lineup is, with most players on their first three lines registering a point in the win.
The Islanders went 2-1 against the Bruins last season, with the home team being victorious in each game they played. A two-goal performance by Cal Clutterbuck paved the way for the first victory of the pair, which ended in a 3-1 score. Anthony Beauvillier scored the game-winning goal in the second period on the power play, assisted by rookie Robin Salo and Josh Bailey. Semyon Varlamov pitched a shutout for 59 minutes until Mike Rielly broke the ice for the Bruins with a minute to go in regulation. In the second matchup Noah Dobson, Mat Barzal, and Brock Nelson all registered one goal and one assist in a 4-1 win, this time with Sorokin in net only allowing one goal that came off the stick of Taylor Hall in the first period. The Bruins, however, had a much different attitude heading back to their own barn by crushing the Isles 6-3 at TD Garden as the playoff race for the Isles was nearing its eventual end. Brad Marchand and Hall led the way for Boston, each having a goal and two assists, while three other Bruins registered two points in the winning effort. Anders Lee had a goal and an assist himself in the loss, with Nelson and Zach Parise scoring the other two goals for New York. Zdeno Chara also scored his final point against his former team on the Nelson goal.
These teams have recent playoff history as well, having faced off in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the 2020-21 season. The Islanders would come out on top by taking the series in six games, which change tides early after head coach Barry Trotz decided to start Varlamov for the rest of the series after a 5-2 loss for Sorokin and the Isles in game one at Boston. Casey Cizikas scored maybe the most memorable goal of the series in game two, scoring on a breakaway in overtime to win game two. What most fans will also remember were comments made by Bruins' bench boss Bruce Cassidy after they fell 5-4 in game five, and referring to the Islanders as the "New York Saints," which ended up fueling a ruthless barrage of chants by the Isles' faithful in game six at the Nassau Coliseum that the Islanders ultimately won 6-2. For the second straight season, the Islanders were able to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals but would fall once again to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. Both teams have not won a playoff series since.
Players to Watch
If there's been anyone to watch consistently for New York recently, it has been the assist machine that is Mathew Barzal. He is currently tied for 4th in the league with 27 assists and leads the team in scoring with 30 points. This has not been the best stretch for the Isles as of late, but number 13 is still noticeably one of the most dynamic players on the rink when he gets in stride, along with being one of the Islanders' most consistent scorers. In his career, Barzy has scored six goals and 10 assists in 19 games against the Boston Bruins, the second most points he has against any team that is not in the Metropolitan division. Barzal could have some personal motivation when playing against this team specifically due to the Bruins famously passing on him three consecutive times in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, among other notable players, and we'll see if that continues tonight at TD Garden.
David Pastrnak has been a top 10, even arguably top five forward in the NHL so far this season, and he has shown no signs of slowing down at all in his contract season. He is currently riding on a five-game point streak in which he scored five goals and one assist. This is also coming right after a nine-game point streak ended in November where the Czechia native only went two games all month without registering at least one point. Pasta has 19 goals and 19 assists this season for 38 points good for sixth in the league while leading the Bruins in points by a wide margin. Eight of those goals have come on the power play, where he can be as lethal as any with that right-handed one-timer in Ovechkin's office. The Islanders will have to neutralize him along with his linemates if they want to escape Boston and fly to Arizona with two points in their back pocket.
Anders Lee-Mat Barzal-Oliver Wahlstrom
Josh Bailey-Brock Nelson-Anthony Beauvillier
Zach Parise-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Kyle Palmieri
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck
Robin Salo-Ryan Pulock
Alexander Romanov-Scott Mayfield
Sebastian Aho-Noah Dobson
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall-Pavel Zacha-Jake DeBrusk
Craig Smith-Charlie Coyle-Trent Frederic
Nick Foligno-Tomas Nosek-A.J. Green
Hampus Lindholm-Charlie McAvoy
Derek Forbort-Connor Clifton
Matt Grzelcyk-Brandon Carlo
Lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff.