Those pesky New York Islanders have done it again! The Islanders punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Semifinals on Wednesday night, as they took down the Boston Bruins in six games. This series felt like deja vu from round one: the Islanders, underestimated heavily against a perennial playoff contender, managed to shut down their opponent offensively (for the most part) and continued to capitalize on timely scoring chances and solid goaltending to boot.
In similar fashion to round one, this series was no “work of art”. But if the Islanders have proved anything in their postseason runs during the Trotz/Lamoriello era, they don’t always need to be to seal the deal. So, with that said, what are some of the biggest things to take away from the Isles’ second-round clash with the Bruins?
Let’s explore four takeaways from the series, one for every fine the Bruins were given over the course of this series. Let’s get to it!
Like a good neighbor, Varly was there
Coming off a superb opening round performance that saw him put up a flawless 4-0 record, 1.95 GAA and a .943 save percentage, it was almost guaranteed that (statistically speaking) rookie netminder Ilya Sorokin would fall back to earth eventually. Well, “eventually” would come sooner rather than later, as Sorokin was in net for the Isles’ 5-2 loss in game one. Following that loss, Barry Trotz opted to make a move that many fans disagreed with as he turned to veteran netminder Semyon Varlamov for game two. However, the doubters were put in their place as Varlamov not only helped the Islanders even the series in game two but helped them win four of their next five games to take the series in six games. That’s incredible on its own until you add in the fact that every single win credited to Varlamov this postseason came in this series (which is amazing to see given how he struggled in the two games he played against the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one). Depth at every position is crucial in making a deep playoff run, and Varlamov’s performance in the second round was a prime example of how important solid goaltending is.
Barzal’s big-time scoring
Through six games against the Penguins in round one, saying Mathew Barzal was held at bay might have been a bit of an understatement. With just three assists through those six games, Barzal was being shut down big time by the Penguins. While the bulk of the scoring came from the second and third lines, it was no surprise that Barzal needed to break free of his apparent slump if the Isles wanted to go far. And boy, did he ever pick up the pace. In game three, Barzal stepped up huge for the Isles, tying the game with his first of the postseason… and although that game would ultimately end in an overtime loss for New York, lucky number 13 proved he was just getting started. Game four was arguably Barzal’s best of the playoffs so far, as he had a beautiful assist on Kyle Palmieri’s game-tying goal, and found the back of the net himself for the eventual game-winning goal to tie the series at two. He would tack on another multi-point outing (goal, assist) in a pivotal game five on the road, ultimately setting the stage for the Isles to bring the curtain down at the Barn. Hopefully,w this is just the tip of the iceberg for “The Kid Who Won The Calder” in terms of scoring.
Mat Barzal gets us going with the equalizer!
Let's get going for period 2
— Islanders Videos (@SNY_Islanders) June 7, 2021
Three-goal periods turned the tide
The Islanders scored a total of 22 goals in the second round, rounding out to an average of 3.66 goals per game. For a team that’s been known to have their fair share of offensive struggles, that’s pretty impressive… but there’s something more to uncover there. Out of those 22 goals, the Islanders managed to pot 12 of those goals over the course of four periods (three times in the second period, once in the third). This might seem like a useless stat to some of you, but there’s a reason I’m taking the time to mention this. In all four instances the Isles scored three times in a period, they’d go on to win the game. These scoring bunches for New York shifted the momentum big time in their victories, and it allowed them to build up a lead that was just too much for the Bruins to come back from. This was extremely apparent in game four (three goals in the third to tie the series), as well as games five and six (building the second-period lead that allowed them to successfully lock down the game in the third) and it showed as the Isles won three in a row to take the series.
For the third point of the four featured, we’re going to key in on an individual player… and this time, it’s one of the newest Islanders. Kyle Palmieri was solid in the series against the Penguins, potting three goals over six games. Compared to his two goals in 17 regular-season games, the production for the Smithtown, NY native was beginning to pay off. Well, if Palmieri’s round one performance paid off a little bit, his play in round two proved the Isles struck gold at the trade deadline. After being held off the scoreboard in game one, Palmieri went on to score points in the final five games of the series, including an assist on the game-tying goal in game three and scoring the equalizer himself in game four. The man they call “Palms” is now up to nine points (seven goals, two assists) in 12 postseason games. The regular season production might not have been what Isles fans expected, but his playoff production has fans over the moon. In fact, he also outscored fellow trade deadline acquisition (and former New Jersey Devils teammate) Taylor Hall, as the 2018 Hart Trophy winner only had an empty-netter and an assist (including no points in the final three games of the series) en route to a series loss for Boston. Not surprisingly, looks like Lou made the right choice after all.]
That’s Kyle Palmieri’s team leading 7th goal of the playoffs #isles
— James Nichols (@JamesNicholsNYI) June 10, 2021
Follow Carter on Twitter @cbentivenga14