The New York Islanders are down in their Second-Round series versus the Boston Bruins, two games to one, but hardly out. It’s just that the margin of error has become much narrower than when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one.
The Bruins are a much different team than what the Islanders conquered earlier in the playoffs, but hardly unbeatable. While many analysts think they are Stanley Cup-bound, New York defeated them with a gutsy effort in game two and had game three last night on their sticks.
Anthony Beauvillier passed up an open net prior to the tying goal by Mathew Barzal earlier in the third period. The Islanders’ power play showed crisp puck movement but failed to get enough pucks to the net. With the game winding down, Brock Nelson missed wide on a point-blank effort from the slot.
In overtime, Tuuka Rask, who we wrote last week would not be Tristian Jarry, stopped Jordan Eberle, then gobbled up the rebound of Barzal, who found himself all alone with game three on his stick. It was almost immediately afterward that Semyon Varlamov, brilliant over the past two games, would choose the worst time for his seemingly nightly, soft goal.
“His temperament (Varlamov) is fine. That’s a seeing-eye puck that hits an almost one-inch hole. That’s a shot he’ll want back, but he will let it go, and no different than he’s done many, many times before” head coach Barry Trotz said post-game.
That seems to indicate that Trotz will send Varlamov right back at it in Game Four, with a chance at redemption. It appears the right message at this time of year. You don’t pick this moment to start ‘sending a message’ for mistakes on the ice.
New York got two forwards caught low along the left-wing boards on the winning goal, allowing Charlie McEvoy a clean skating lane from his defensive zone all the way to the Islanders’ blue line. He laid a soft pass off to Brad Marchand, who was correctly pinned to the right-wing wall. All he could do was throw a hopeful prayer towards the net Varlamov whiffed on.
While Barry Trotz has said all season he prefers quality to quantity, when a team plays such a sound defensive system, and possesses the best defensive forward in the game, there can be some question if that is the proper mindset, at least for this series. As Marchand proved last night, throw the puck at the net and anything can happen.
“Trust me, you have to get in the interior. They are doing a good job against that, but we are going to have to get a little greasier, a little harder on him (Rask). Both teams are trying to do it, it’s not as easy as it sometimes looks.” Trotz would surmise.
For Boston, they simply need to continue doing what they’re doing. For the Islanders, it’s all about fine-tuning their radars and throwing more pucks at Rask. As talented as Boston is, as sound up and down the lineup they are, this series is proving that the Islanders can and do match up with them.
However, tomorrow is about a must-win as you get this time of year in a non-elimination game. The Islanders are going to have to flip the script and bail out their goaltender(s), who have done it many times over the course of this season when the New York offense has sputtered.
“Right now, these are two teams that are fairly evenly matched. We are playing nose-to-nose, blue-collar hockey. The hard way is going to be the only way in this series. You have to fight and claw for every inch of real estate. There is no panic. We look forward, we don’t look back.” said Trotz.
The Islanders’ perfect look forward would be a dominant Game 4 win. If they look back, this series gets away from them and quickly.