After dismissing the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games, the Islanders are shipping up to Boston to meet the mighty Bruins in round two. This series presents a new challenge for the Isles as the Bruins play an entirely different style of hockey than the Pens. The IslesBlog crew broke down some key X-Factors for the series as the Isles try to reach the Final Four for the second consecutive year.
Ben Mandell (Contributor): After a big round one the Isles will need more of the same from Palmieri in the second round. He scored five goals and had an assist in six games against Boston in the regular season with New Jersey, leading them to a 4-0-2 record in those games. He played the Bruins three times with the Isles and didn’t register a point. In this series, they need Palms to lead the bottom six and get the Isles consistent scoring from that group.
James Nichols (Co-Editor-in-Chief): You don’t normally think of a team’s first line center as an X-Factor because he’s expected to perform. However, the Nelson line has realistically usurped the top line role, and the Pageau line has been incredibly effective. If Barzal can get going and help elevate Jordan Eberle in the process, the Islanders will be cooking with gas with every line posing a threat.
Brooks Simpson (Contributor): My X-Factor for this series is simple, Mathew Barzal. He needs to be an offensive force in this series to complicate the Bruins’ defensive plans. It’s time to perform.
Tim Ryder (Contributor): As Barzy goes, so do the Isles. When he’s playing his game, the Islanders hit another gear as a unit. It adds another dynamic. One that’s virtually indefensible if everyone else is doing their jobs. That’s the key right there — do your jobs, good things will happen.
Ethan Greenberg (Contributor): It’s rare these days when a building can be a legit X-Factor, but without a doubt the Old Barn will play a role in this series. The Isles announced another capacity increase for round two with the Coli increasing to about 86% capacity. All but five available sections will be fully packed, vaccinated sections, which will surely increase the already deafening decibel level inside the barn. This will also be the first time any member of the Bruins will play in front of a playoff crowd at the Coliseum, and it will be interesting to see how it affects them. The fans got inside the head of Tristian Jarry in round one and if they can purchase some real estate in Tuuka Rask’s head in this series, it will be an enormous advantage for the Isles.
Sal Farieri (Contributor): In my opinion, there’s just no bigger X-Factor than a packed Nassau Coliseum for a playoff game and with an increased capacity of 12,000 fans, it’s sure going to be raucous. The Islanders feed off the energy and find another level to their game. The intimidating atmosphere certainly makes it difficult for opposing teams. Boston, who may have seen the barn rocking on TV, just won’t really know how rocking it gets until Game 3 and beyond. If the Islanders can at least split the first two games, they’ll be in a good position to take advantage of the seventh man and make the series quite interesting.
Carter Bentivenga (Contributor): Looking at both sides of the last series, the big thing to take away from it was goaltending can both win and lose you a playoff series. There are causes for concern on both sides, but let’s start with Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin was fantastic in round one against the Penguins, posting a clean 4-0 record, 1.95 GAA and a 9.43 save percentage. Those numbers are impressive for a rookie in his first playoff series, almost impressive enough where a dip in production is inevitable.
The Bruins are a very deep team with four forward lines that can chip in on the offense, including one of the NHL’s best in the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line (a.k.a. “The Perfection Line”). Looking at Boston’s goaltending, Tuukka Rask has had a solid postseason to date, a much better one than Tristan Jarry did. The Isles aren’t going to get as many freebies or fluke goals as they got on Jarry, which means they’ll need to work harder and shoot more if they want to score at the same rate in the second round.
Dani Mohr (Contributor): The X-Factor for this series is without a doubt Ilya Sorokin. With a playoff series win already, I’m expecting him to make some major noise going up against the Bruins. Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech are also expected to show up big and it will be interesting to see how the Bruins counter the Isles’ top pair.
Daniel Friedman (Columnist): If Sorokin can be lights out, the Isles have a shot at this thing. We’ve seen teams beat opponents who were superior on paper because goaltending was able to turn the tide. The Islanders will probably need that if they’re going to have a shot to advance.
The Killer B’s + Sorokin
Bri Repetto (Contributor): I’d say the three most important Islanders coming into the next round are going to be Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, and Ilya Sorokin. First and foremost, Nelson and Beauvillier can put up points consistently and had a very strong opening round. The Isles will need their production again against the Boston because of how stingy the Bruins are in their own end. Any chance the Islanders get, they will need to covert. In addition, Sorokin proved himself in the first series against the Penguins as every game the Isles won, he was in net. Goaltending is going to need to stay strong in this next round which I believe he will be able to provide.
Matt Watling (Contributor): After a tumultuous regular season, Mayfield led the Isles and Penguins in game score during the first round. He was sharp, quick with the puck, and positionally sound. The Blue and Orange will need that and more from Mayfield as the top defensive pair will have its hands full with the Bruins’ top line. Mayfield and his partner Nick Leddy will presumably be tasked with shutting down Taylor Hall, who has led a resurgence of the Bruins’ second line. If Mayfield is on his A-game, the Bruins turn into a one line, mediocre offense like they were for much of the regular season.
Ryan Dunnigan (Contributor): The Islanders’ X-Factor has to be JG Pageau. For the Isles to advance they need their third and fourth lines to be the difference makers. Pageau is a spark plug that plays his best in big games. He will need to be the player to turn the tide in this series.
Rob Taub (Co-Editor-in-Chief): Leddy might have been the most noticeable Islander in the first round, but not in a good way. He struggled mightily at times with the Penguins’ speed and heavy forecheck. The task won’t get any easier with Boston. Leddy has to find a way to use his strengths again that contributed to a solid regular season. The Isles will need him at his very best at both ends of the ice if they want to have any shot of moving on to the next round.