On Wednesday night the New York Islanders clinched their second round series with a 6-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. The series was a hard-fought battle that could have gone either way. The difference was the Isles’ ability to absolutely shut down the Bruins’ second line.
Heading into the second-round matchup with the B’s, the first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak — The Perfection Line — grabbed all the headlines. But what made Boston really scary was that since acquiring Taylor Hall at the trade deadline, the Bruins’ second line was now a force to be reckoned with as well. The David Krejci, Craig Smith and Hall trio was primed to be a difference-maker in the series after their excellent opening round performance against the Washington Capitals.
The Islanders had other plans. They shut that line down completely over six games. In doing so, they turned the Bruins into a one-dimensional, one-line team.
Krejci, Smith and Hall scored only four goals and contributed just 11 points in the series. However, that is overstating that line’s impact. Krejci plays on the B’s top power play unit without Hall or Smith. On the man-advantage, he recorded a goal and three assists. Credit the Isles’ PK for their strong effort against him. Hall’s only goal of the series came on an empty net. Krejci assisted on that goal. So essentially the Bruins’ second line accounted for only two goals and five total points.
For comparison Brock Nelson, the Isles second line center, scored twice in game six alone and had four points in the series.
As the series carried on the better question became, how will the Bruins score if it does not come from their “Big Three”? The Islanders answered resoundingly that they will not. The three other lines for the Bruins were kept quiet all series long.
Throughout the series the Bruins never really felt dangerous unless Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak were on the ice.
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The Islanders are one of hockey’s deepest teams. As Jordan Eberle told reporters, “The one thing I really respect about Barry (Trotz) is he makes everyone feel important whether you are on the first or fourth line, and to be honest we don’t really have a first or fourth line. We roll lines and whatever the situation of the game is he goes with it.” This depth was the key to stifling the secondary lines of Boston.
Coach Barry Trotz used his third line centered by J.G. Pageau against the B’s top line. The Islanders depth then allowed him to use a mix of his other lines to shut down the Krejci line and the rest was history.
When all was said and done, that made all the difference. They made the Bruins an inferior outfit that would only be able to beat them if the Perfection Line was able to do it alone. Three straight wins later and the Islanders are headed to Tampa for their second straight Semifinal meeting with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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