The Islanders and Bruins have played a great series in the four games played already with two overtime games and plenty of great play from both teams. The Bruins took a 2-1 series lead with a Game Three victory but the Islanders responded with an incredible defensive performance to win Game Four 4-1 and even the series as the two teams head to Boston. The series has essentially become a best-of-three with Game Five being the pivotal game as the winner will only be one win away from advancing in the series.
Islanders defense wins recent gameThe Islanders' defense struggled in Game One against the Bruins' top line, allowing 5 goals in the defeat. However, in the past two games, the defense has stepped up to allow the Islanders to even the series and only allow 3 goals in the process, including only one in the recent Game Four victory. The defensive pairings have been limiting the Bruins offense in the neutral zone and with getting into their passing lanes with Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock leading the way but the improvement has to be credited to goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who saved 28 of 29 shots in the recent win and have a .929 save percentage in the Stanely Cup Playoffs thus far.
While the defense has played great in the recent games, the offense has struggled, scoring only one goal in the Game Three loss and scoring two of the four goals in Game Four on an empty net. While Mathew Barzal has finally started to find the back of the net, with 2 goals in the last two games, the rest of the unit is starting to struggle. The hope is that Kyle Palmieri, who has 5 goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, can lead his line while Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey, who have 4 goals each, can lead their line in the upcoming games.
Bruins will hope aggressive play pays offThe Bruins were able to win Game Three with aggressive play in the offensive zone, forcing turnovers and pressuring the Islanders even after they would create a turnover. The strategy was abandoned in Game Four and the team struggled, as the Islanders were able to control the puck and overwhelm the Bruins defense and goaltender Tuukka Rask, scoring 4 goals in the game. The Bruins' aggressive play will allow them to take advantage of the speed the defensive pairing possesses in Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk and allow their goaltender in Rask to make easy saves, as he already has a .935 save percentage and is allowing only 1.9 goals per game.
The Bruins also hope to play more aggressive hockey to help their offense, a unit that has scored only 3 goals in the last two games and only scored on a power play in the recent defeat. The top line should be able to lead the way as David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron have scored 14 of the Bruins' 27 goals and have given the Islanders the most trouble in the series. Likewise, the depth of the Bruins forward unit can benefit from aggressive play with Taylor Hall leading the later lines as he has 3 goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.