The Old Barn isn’t done yet as the New York Islanders eliminated the Boston Bruins in six games to force at least two more home games at Fort Neverlose. For the second straight series, the blue and orange proved another one of my predictions wrong. I had Boston ousting the Islanders in six, but as we all know, the exact opposite happened. Let me just say, I couldn’t be happier to be wrong. We all just witnessed an outstanding six-game series by both the S̶a̶i̶n̶t̶s̶ Islanders and the Bruins, but what were the game changers that threw my prediction off the rails?
Adam Pelech, who continues to solidify himself as one of the league’s best defensive defensemen, was an absolute monster in this series. He had the tall task of shutting down Boston’s potent offense and, with the exception of the “Perfection Line,” he did just that. Averaging close to 23 minutes per game, Pelech was physical, made good use of his long stick, and did well battling for pucks. He is, without a doubt, the Islanders’ most valuable defenseman and makes up half of one of the most dominant defensive pairings in the NHL.
This probably to be said more often: Adam Pelech is one of the best defensemen in the NHL.#Isles
— Joe Pantorno (@JoePantorno) June 5, 2021
Islanders general manager, Lou Lamoriello’s big deadline acquisition continues to prove it was worth the gamble. After a slow start to his Islanders career, Kyle Palmieri has surely stepped up big time in the postseason. After notching three goals in the first round against Pittsburgh, he followed it up by scoring four goals and adding a pair of assists in the six-game set versus Boston. Similar to captain Anders Lee, Palmieri’s goals have come primarily around the net, proving that he was an excellent pickup to replace the goals lost by the injured Captain. Not only is he proving his worth on the scoresheet, but he’s also doing it away from the puck. He is part of the J.G. Pageau line that was matched up against the “Perfection Line,” which limited them as the series went on. Palmieri, who is known to play with an edge, registered 14 hits and was often in the middle of scrums. He also knocked Charlie McAvoy out of Game 6 briefly with a shoulder hit to the head that should have been penalized.
“Mathew Barzal take a bow.” The Islanders superstar finally arrived after only notching three assists in the first round against the Penguins. Barzal made the team that passed over him three times in the 2015 NHL Entry draft pay by scoring his first three goals of the postseason, including the game-winner in Game 4 while adding three assists. Half of his six total points in the series came on the power-play, including a game-tying late first-period goal in Game 5. Barzal seemed to open up a bit with Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo going down with an injury, departing the series in Game 3 suffering a concussion on a hit by Cal Clutterbuck. He began creating more space and started becoming the force that he’s known to be in the offensive zone. Even away from the puck, he was solid. The center was strong on the backcheck and held his own in physical play. He even got under the skin of David Krejci, which resulted in a vicious “slash” and a powerplay for the Islanders in their 4-1 win in Game Four.
Secondary Scoring (lack of)
The Boston Bruins scored a total of 17 goals in six games against the Islanders. Out of those 17 goals, only six were scored by someone not named Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand. That trio combined for 63 of Boston’s 221 total shots in the series. Secondary scoring for the Bruins was practically non-existent thanks to the Islanders’ defensive play and the play of goaltender Semyon Varlamov. The Bruins deadline acquisition, Taylor Hall, was shut down outside of an empty-net goal in Game 1 (finished series with a goal and one assist). David Krejci scored twice and Charlie Coyle, Craig Smith, and McAvoy had one goal apiece. That’s it. You cannot win without secondary scoring in the playoffs and it is simply masterful work by the Islanders shutting it down.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) June 10, 2021
He may not be winning the Jack Adams trophy this year, but Barry Trotz is the best head coach in the entire National Hockey League. That statement holds true even with him playing Leo Komarov on the top line. He has the team playing structured, confident, physical, and for one another. Trotz’s usage of Pageau is nothing short of superb. His ability to create the perfect matchups to frustrate opponents is simply outstanding. After Game 1, his decision to give the net back to Varlamov looks to have paid dividends, despite the early goals that were consistently allowed. The adjustments made in-game, particularly in the third period of Game 6 after some loose play, were brilliant. It is without a doubt he outcoached his counterpart, Bruce Cassidy.
My X-Factor of this series came through. Nassau Coliseum, as usual, was an amazing environment that provided the team with plenty of energy. In my opinion, it is no coincidence that the Islanders played their best hockey of the series on home ice. They outshot Boston in two of the three games at the Old Barn, which is a big deal considering they were outshot for the majority of the series, including every road game. Where it matters, the Islanders outscored the Bruins 11-5 on Coliseum ice. Lastly, the barn singing the National Anthem gave me chills down my spine. I could only imagine the energy it, as well as the “New York Saints” chants, gave the players.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 10, 2021
Possibly more bad luck for Boston than anything else were the missed chances that could have changed the series a bit. Who can forget Pastrnak hitting the far post while having access to a wide-open net in Game 4? Certainly not Pasta. What about Marchand pushing the puck through the crease instead of over the goal line? There’s no guarantee the series changes if goals were scored there, but you’d have to imagine a momentum swing or two.
With the defending champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, being heavily favored just like the previous Islanders opponents, do I change it up and go with the underdogs this time?
Follow Sal on Twitter @sfarieri