Momentum is a fickle thing in sports, and some will tell you it doesn’t exist. They might point to the New York Islanders’ Game 3 against the Boston Bruins as exhibit A.
After the Islanders tied the game in the final minutes of the third period, Boston scored the important one in overtime off Brad Marchand’s stick to give the road team a 2-1 win and a lead in the series.
“These are two teams that are fairly evenly matched,” Barry Trotz said after the game. “We’re playing nose to nose, blue-collar hockey and it’s not going to be easy. The hard way is going to be the only way in this series. There was no easy ice… you have to fight and claw for every inch of real estate out there.”
Tough break in overtime
Semyon Varlamov has had a roller coaster of a postseason and he’s only appeared in four games. Injured at the start of the first round to losing his net to poor play and now back to starting.
He won Game 2 and was rock solid for most of Game 3. And then Marchand and overtime happened. The Islanders had more than a few solid chances on the other end but Boston cashed in on one Varlamov should’ve stopped.
Brad Marchand wins it in overtime.
Bruins take Game 3.
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) June 4, 2021
Marchand skated deep into the Islanders zone and sent a sneaky, but usually harmless shot to the net. Varlamov missed it. He was deep in the crease and in poor position on what should have been an easy save.
Even the netminder was mystified over it.
“I don’t really have an answer for you right now,” Varlamov said of the goal. “Just kind of a weird shot and the puck found the net.”
Barzal cracks the goal sheet (FINALLY!)
It took nine games into the playoffs but Mathew Barzal has a postseason goal in 2021.
Like several the Islanders have already scored this series, Barzal’s marker was a greasy goal off a rebound in front. There were times in the game — and really the playoffs in general — where Barzal has been too passive. He missed on a power move in the second period but then cashed in about 20 minutes later.
Another look at Barzal's equalizer 👀 pic.twitter.com/R0q6f34aAX
— x – New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) June 4, 2021
Plays like this are more of what the Islanders need from their most skilled player. Individually, he had the second-best Corsi For among forwards on the Islanders this game and the top line was the best on the team. Barzal was denied in overtime on a great chance in tight, as Rask continued to bring his best stuff.
But not having Anders Lee is really hurting the team’s net-front presence and overall chances. Leo Komarov has been relatively serviceable this postseason, but he would be scratched in a lot of postseason lineups.
Pelech shines, Dobson and Leddy struggle
The Islanders’ top defensive pair with Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock has been largely outstanding this postseason. They’ve been tasked with playing against tough lines and have — on the whole — done well. Pelech in particular had better than a 62 expected goals for percentage.
However, Nick Leddy and Scott Mayfield continued to struggle and there were a number of moments where they just couldn’t keep up. The eye test was not great and the analytics look worse. They were the bottom two Islanders skaters in relative expected goals for, each posting negative percentages. Not ideal.