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Game 5 was reminder B’s should want Penguins, not Islanders in Round 2 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Bruins fans watching Game 5 between the Islanders and Penguins on Monday night were reminded that the best matchup for Boston in the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs is Pittsburgh.

Why the Penguins? Look no further than Tristan Jarry.

The Penguins’ No. 1 goalie basically gave away the pivotal Game 5 with a sloppy pass in double overtime that went right to Islanders forward Josh Bailey, who skated in and beat Jarry for the winning goal. 

It was one of several lackluster moments for Jarry in the series. Not only is his puck-handling subpar, he hasn’t done a great job of stopping pucks this season.

Jarry posted a .909 save percentage and a 2.75 goals against average in 39 regular season appearances (38 starts). His numbers in five first-round games against the Islanders have been slightly worse — a .902 save percentage and a 2.85 GAA. 

Game 5 observations: Tuukka Rask propels Bruins to second round

He also has just six total games of playoff experience. Compare that with Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask having played in 98 career postseason games.

Rask also is playing his best hockey of the season right now. He just posted a .941 save percentage and a 1.81 GAA in a five-game first-round triumph over the Washington Capitals. After returning from injury on April 15, Rask closed the regular season with a 7-2-0 record, a .923 save percentage and a 2.07 GAA.

The Bruins would have an advantage in net against the Islanders, too, but the gap between Rask and Jarry is wider than the gap between Rask and New York’s goaltenders.

One of the Penguins’ strengths is their power play, which had the fourth-best conversion rate during the regular season. The Bruins are well-equipped to neutralize that power play after giving an excellent penalty killing performance against the Capitals’ elite power play.

Pittsburgh’s power play is a little more complex than Washington’s — it’s not too reliant on any one player like the Capitals are with Ovechkin — but Boston was very good against the Pens’ power play during the regular season. The B’s allowed just two goals (fewest of any East Division team) in 40:26 of Penguins power play time over eight regular season matchups.

Potential second round opponents, start date for Bruins

The Islanders are a more physical team than the Penguins. They also play with the fundamentally sound defensive structure most Barry Trotz-coached teams display, and they have good special teams, too.

The Bruins should be favored against either team in Round 2, but if there is one opponent that would pose a slightly easier matchup, it’s the Penguins because of goaltending.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, the chances of the Penguins winning back-to-back games don’t seem too good right now, especially with Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin playing at a high level (.951 save percentage) since entering the series.