The New York Islanders were not a strong offensive club during the regular season. However, as we saw in last year’s postseason, they found a way to ignite a spark when they turned the page from the regular season to the playoffs.
New York was able to solve Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry in the First Round, now they’ll have to find that magic again in the Second Round against Tukka Rask and the Boston Bruins. Jarry struggled immensely against an Islanders offense that was far from a powerhouse during the regular season, but the offensive outbursts in the first round were sure to help boost their confidence going into round two.
Tristan Jarry Gave Islanders Offense Confidence in Round 1
The New Islanders came into the playoffs having scored just 2.78 goals per contest, which ranked 21st in the NHL. Well, that same team heads into the second round averaging 3.5 goals per game. That ranks fourth among playoff teams.
The good news for head coach Barry Trotz is that it was not just one line producing.
Trade Deadline acquisition Kyle Palmieri, who struggled with his new team during the regular season, picked up three goals against Pittsburgh. The second line, which carried the Islanders to the Eastern Conference last postseason, scored nine goals.
Jordan Eberle, a streaky goal-scorer, lit the lamp twice in key moments and the fourth line did their jobs, and more, as Cal Clutterbuck collected two goals as well.
Even the defensemen came through.
Scott Mayfield had a goal and three assists and Ryan Pulock had two goals and an assist. That’s Two different defensive pairings right there getting in on the offense and coming up big when their team needed them.
What had plagued the Islanders for years was their inability to make the most of their offensive-zone opportunities. While there were surely missed chances throughout round one, the Islander made it count more often than not.
That was because Jarry had a tough series.
At the end of the series, his lackluster play was a significant reason as why Pittsburgh failed to defeat the Islanders.
The 26-year old netminder had an expected goals against (xGA) of 11.22 but allowed 21. Trotz’s club knew Jarry’s weakness and exploited it all series long.
15 of them went glove-side.
— Stefen Rosner (@stefen_rosner) May 27, 2021
Jarry gave the Islanders the win in the pivotal Game 5 double-overtime thriller. In the series-clinching Game 6 win back on Wednesday, Jarry had an xGA of 1.27, yet allowed five goals to enter the back of the net.
The Islanders had struggled to beat the Penguins during the regular season. They were 2-4-2, had averaged a mere 2.38 goals per game, and had lost four games at PPG Paints Arena.
Two out of the four wins in the series for the Islanders came at that arena.
Boston Bruins Tuukka Rask a Different Story in Round 2
Now the New Islanders will have a much tougher task at hand in the Second Round
Boston netminder Tuukka Rask entered the 2021 postseason with a chip on his shoulder. He took a lot of heat for leaving the bubble last postseason due to a family issue, and now he is making the haters eat their words about his commitment to his team and to the sport.
Rask allowed only 1.81 goals per game, with a .941 SV% in their first-round series against Alex Ovechkin and the talented Washington Capitals. Not only are those statistics impressive, but he also came up large to bail his team out more often than not.
Rask faced 38 high-danger shots and allowed just four goals for a .895 high-danger SV%. The analytics expected the 34-year old to allow 12.93 goals in his opening-round series. He only allowed 10.
After a weaker start to the series, Rask got better and better each game. The good news for the Islanders is that every goaltender is beatable regardless of the statistics.
The Islanders need to figure out Rask’s weakness and exploit it. And he may just have one that the Isles can take advantage of.
Of the 10 goals Rask allowed in the First Round, five of them came off deflections and tips in front. Rask had difficulty picking up shots when there was a crowd in the slot, which seemed to be the case more often than not. Even without Anders Lee’s big net-front presence, the Islanders have bodies on each line that can do the trick.
The Bruins defense finished the season with the second-fewest shots allowed per game, at 27.1. They have seen that increase to 33.8 in the playoffs. Those starts are from a small sample size against a very offensive-based Washington team, so it will be up to the Islanders to generate more shots.
If they can do just that, the chances will be there.
Those fluky goals that got past Jarry in Round 1 will not occur against Rask. That means the Islanders will have to work harder in the offensive zone to collect goals and by the show of things, crashing the net looks like the best way to do that.
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