A little over six weeks ago, the New York Islanders surrendered their first round pick in the upcoming draft for a pair of New Jersey Devils in Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. While Palmieri certainly delivered early on against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it has been the player the Isles did not get that has made waves since the deadline, Taylor Hall.
Since Hall landed with the Boston Bruins — the Isles’ opponent in the second round — he has turned it on to the vintage Hall that many have come to expect. Eight goals and 14 points in just 16 games is much closer to his 0.86 points per game career average than the abysmal start to the season in Buffalo. Hall has scored six more goals in Boston even in 21 fewer games. He also has helped shape the Bruins into a top-five offense since the trade deadline, leading a second line that the Isles need to shut down in round two.
The Bruins’ line of Hall, David Krejci and Craig Smith, while not dynamic, scored some critical goals in a five game series win over the Washington Capitals. Hall scored two goals in the series, including the game-tying goal in game two, with just 2:49 left in the game. The trio combined for three goals and five assists.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) May 19, 2021
With the Islanders’ top pairing of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock most likely going to be tied up with the “Perfection Line,” it will fall on Nick Leddy and Scott Mayfield to limit Hall to the best of their abilities.
The Leddy-Mayfield pairing will certainly have issues, but the two need to use their complementary style of play to their advantage. On the rush, Leddy needs to match up with Hall. Leddy has the speed and stickwork to hopefully Keep Hall on the outside. Mayfield, on the other hand, does not have the wheels to keep Hall from getting around him. One area where Mayfield certainly excels is in the physical battles. When the Hall line gets set up in the zone, Mayfield needs to lay the body on Hall. Take him out of his element and separate him from the puck. Of course, this is easier said than done.
“It just gives them more depth,” Mayfield said Friday. “Taylor Hall is a really good player. It’s huge for them.”
Both trade deadline acquisitions and former teammates will be crucial in this series for their respective teams. Hall has dragged the second line of the Bruins, a line that makes them the most dangerous team in the East. Palmieri, in a similar vein, will need to do a majority of the secondary scoring with the Mathew Barzal line struggling to produce.
There might be added pressure if Oliver Wahlstrom is out more long-term, as he is much more dangerous than his replacement in Travis Zajac.
Bruins vs. Islanders series preview
— dom at the athletic (@domluszczyszyn) May 28, 2021
In reality, the Islanders – analytically speaking – are a long shot to win this series. The Bruins are far hotter coming into the series, have far better talent and a system that works just as well as patented Barry Trotz hockey.
The best way for the Islanders to overcome their abysmal odds is to shut down the second line and Hall since it is nearly impossible to do that with the Bruins’ top line. That alongside scoring from the middle six might see the Islanders reach the Stanley Cup Semifinals for the second time in as many years.
Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattWatling99