Bruins vs. Islanders: Power ranking the lines, pairings, goalies originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
It’s the first playoff meeting between these teams since the 1983 Wales Conference Final, where the Islanders emerged victorious in a six-game series.
Which team has the advantage at forward, on the blue line and between the pipes in Round 2? Here’s a power ranking of each line, pairing and goalie in the series.
1. Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–David Pastrnak
This line is one of the league’s best, and it combined to score eight goals (three on the power play) in Round 1. If the B’s top line is similarly productive in Round 2, it would be hard to envision Boston losing the series. The B’s tallied more than 60 percent of all shot attempts, shots on net, scoring chances and high-danger chances at 5-on-5 when this line was on the ice in the first round.
There isn’t a better two-way trio in the world.
2. Taylor Hall–David Krejci–Craig Smith
Hall scored a couple clutch goals in Round 1, including one of the prettiest of the playoffs so far. Smith won Game 3 by capitalizing on a miscommunication behind the Capitals net in double overtime. Krejci didn’t score but the B’s drove puck possession at a high rate when he was on the ice during 5-on-5 action.
3. Anthony Beauvillier–Brock Nelson–Josh Bailey
New York’s second line dominated in Round 2, scoring nine goals (eight at 5-on-5) in six games. Beauvillier, Nelson and Bailey each had three goals apiece. This is one of the hottest lines in the playoffs and the Bruins have to slow it down, so look for the Bergeron line and/or the McAvoy/Grzelcyk pairing to get plenty of action against this Islanders trio.
The battle between the second lines should be a pivotal one in Round 2.
4. Leo Komarov–Mathew Barzal–Jordan Eberle
Barzal struggled in Round 1 with zero goals and three assists (only one at 5-on-5). However, he has the ability to play at an elite level and is without question the Islanders’ best playmaker. He’s led the team in scoring four consecutive seasons. There also might be some personal motivation for Barzal against the Bruins after they passed on him three times in the first round of the 2015 draft.
Eberle plays the game with tremendous speed and Komarov plays a tough, physical style. Overall, this is a well-balanced line that can excel in several different ways.
5. Kyle Palmieri–Jean-Gabriel Pageau–Travis Zajac
Boston fans will fear this line because it has two of the biggest “B’s killers” on it. Palmieri scored five times against the Bruins this season (all with New Jersey), while Pageau tallied eight points in eight games versus Boston. Zajac has loads of experience and can take important faceoffs if needed. Palmieri struggled after the Islanders acquired him before the trade deadline. His four points (two goals, two assists) in 17 games to close out the regular season were pretty underwhelming. However, he scored three times in Round 1, including the overtime winner in Game 1.
Palmieri and Hall were the top wingers available at the trade deadline, and whichever player performs at a higher level in this series could be a key factor in the outcome.
6. Nick Ritchie–Charlie Coyle–Jake DeBrusk
This line is a huge x-factor for the Bruins. Ritchie started off hot in the regular season but cooled off. He scored in Game 1 of the first round and didn’t make a huge impact on the series overall. DeBrusk was pretty solid against the Capitals, scoring in the first two games and adding an assist in Game 4. His inconsistency is frustrating, but he’s typically locked in come playoff time even if he’s not scoring.
Coyle had a bad regular season and also didn’t factor much in Round 1. He’s being paid like the top third-line center in the league and was a real difference maker for the Bruins when they beat the Blue Jackets in the second round two years ago. That’s the kind of play the B’s need from Coyle if they’re going to receive the scoring depth needed to win this series.
7. Matt Martin–Casey Cizikas–Cal Clutterbuck
This line sets a physical tone for the Islanders each game. These players will throw huge hits, battle hard for 50-50 pucks, create traffic in front of the net and even fight if required. It’s also capable of generating some decent scoring looks, and Clutterbuck scored twice in Round 1.
8. Sean Kuraly–Curtis Lazar–Chris Wagner
The B’s fourth line plays a physical game and takes on tough defensive zone assignments. This group knows its role and plays it well, and head coach Bruce Cassidy can rely on it in several different situations. Still, the Bruins need a little more offense from this group. Zero goals and one assist between these three players in Round 1 was not ideal.
1. Charlie McAvoy–Matt Grzelcyk
McAvoy is one of the top five defensemen in the league and should be a Norris Trophy finalist. Grzelcyk compliments McAvoy’s game perfectly and the two have great chemistry. The Bruins dominated 5-on-5 play in the first round when this pairing was on the ice, accounting for 60 percent of shot attempts and 67 percent (!) of scoring chances. That’s pretty damn good.
2. Mike Reilly–Brandon Carlo
Carlo is a legit shutdown defenseman and Reilly is a great skater who jumpstarts the transition game with quick, accurate passes out of the defensive zone. The majority of Carlo’s 5-on-5 minutes in games versus the Islanders during the regular season came against their second line. Given the way that line is playing (see above for more info) entering Round 2, this matchup (if it continues) could prove pivotal in the outcome of the series.
3. Adam Pelech–Ryan Pulock
The Pelech-Pulock pairing was matched up against Sidney Crosby’s line in the first round and the Penguins tilted the ice in their favor quite a bit during that 5-on-5 action. The Bergeron line presents many of the same challenges for the Islanders that the Crosby line did. New York will be in trouble if this pairing is out-shot and gives up a ton of scoring chances for a second consecutive series.
4. Nick Leddy-Scott Mayfield
Leddy has 108 games of playoff experience with one Stanley Cup title from his time with the Blackhawks. He’s still a quality playmaker and can play 20-plus minutes per game against quality competition. He’s a key player for the Islanders in this series. Mayfield ranks second on the Islanders in shorthanded time on ice per game at 1:58.
5. Connor Clifton–Jarred Tinordi
Clifton entered the first round in Game 2 after Jeremy Lauzon suffered an injury, and he played really well. His skating, physicality and penalty killing were a huge help to the B’s. He also blocked four or five Alexander Ovechkin shots while the B’s were shorthanded, which aided Boston’s effort in thwarting one of the league’s top power-play units. Tinordi isn’t a top-six defenseman but if Miller and/or Lauzon are unable to play at any point in this series, he’s the most experienced option for the third pairing.
6. Andy Greene–Noah Dobson
Greene is in his 15th season and has 77 games of playoff experience. Dobson is a more offensive-minded player than Greene and plays a key role on New York’s power play, where he averages 1:45 of ice time per game. This pairing was badly outshot in Round 1, which makes it an appealing matchup for Boston’s bottom-six forwards.
1. Tuukka Rask
Rask shook off an average Game 1 performance against the Capitals and posted a .949 save percentage the rest of the series to lead the B’s to the second round. He stopped 40 of the 41 shots sent his way in the Game 5 clincher on the road. Rask is a proven playoff performer with nearly 100 games of playoff experience. His counterpart, Sorokin, made his postseason debut earlier this month. The Bruins should have a clear advantage in net this series. Even a good-but-not-great performance from Rask should be enough.
2. Ilya Sorokin
Sorokin won all four of his starts in Round 1, including the last three games of the series. He tallied a .943 save percentage and a 1.81 GAA overall. The Islanders gave up 55 to 60 percent of all shot attempts, shots on net and scoring chances at 5-on-5. They also had a weaker power play than the Penguins. Despite all of that, New York emerged from the series because Sorokin was excellent in net and Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry was equally bad. Sorokin needs to have another stellar series because the Islanders are unlikely to beat the Bruins if Boston, like the Penguins, tilts the ice heavily in its favor at 5-on-5.
3. Semyon Varlamov
Varlamov was excellent in the regular season with a 2.04 GAA and a .929 save percentage. He missed Game 1 due to injury, returned to the lineup and lost the next two games. He allowed five goals on just 27 shots in a Game 3 defeat and lost his job to Sorokin. Varlamov’s career is full of good-but-not-great playoff runs. He hasn’t been a horrible postseason goalie, but he’s probably not going to steal a series, either. New York is wisely riding the hot goalie in Sorokin, but head coach Barry Trotz does have the luxury of turning to an experienced veteran if needed.
4. Jeremy Swayman
Swayman being fourth on this list doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of playing well in a postseason setting as a rookie, he just doesn’t have the experience or track record of the goalies above him. Boston’s rookie netminder was fantastic during the regular season with a 7-3-0 record, a .945 save percentage and a 1.50 GAA. The Bruins should have plenty of confidence in Swayman if Rask struggles or suffers an injury.